reclaiming the bicha preta – black queer identity in the brazilian publishing world

May 22, 2017

Marcelo Ricardo is an Afro-Brazilian poet and short-story writer based in Salvador, Bahia. He began writing at the age of 14 and recently published an anthology of short stories and poems in 2016. Through his work he brings to the forefront the dynamics of the black queer experience in Brazil alongside the movement for reclaiming the “Bicha Preta”

Bicha Preta – formerly perjorative; can be loosely translated as black queen/queer

By Davi Nunes*, AFROPUNK Contributor

DN: How did you begin writing and when did you begin to see yourself as a “queer writer”, if ever?

MR: I’m one of those people that always loved school and writing. And even though I came from a poor family, my mother always encouraged me to pursue writing. I remember always writing. And I wouldn’t say I ever became a “queer writer”. My writing is queer and has always been queer. I also grew up drawing a lot and I wanted to translate those images into poetry and story form.

I have never subscribed to any particular style or school of writing. I’ve always tried to transcend the existing literary barriers imposed by the white literary movement. However I would say that my writing and my profile is much more aligned with the black literary movement than any white literary movement or style.

My inspiration, like many others, is the daily nature of my own life. I write about my life as I experience it – as a black person in our world. For me, articulating my feelings and experience through poetry, is a strategy of resistance.

DN: Can you tell us about more about your concepts of reclaiming the black “bicha”label and about black love in the black queer community?

MR: There is a lot written about homosexuality in general, however it is usually done under an exclusionary white and/or North American lens. What I am seeing in Brazil is more and more people identifying as black “queers” and queens. The concept of reclaiming the word “bicha*” is profound and dynamic. I believe the black queer community today is rebellious in many ways, be it aesthetics, behavior or ideologies. I am constantly following the stories of the black queer community. Because of the violence the black man has faced, he is left hard and tough, unable to be seen as vulnerable, while at the same time desiring affection, security, love and romance. I see power in queer black people loving one another. Afro-centered relationships, although they may have a different range of complexity, are a way for black people to recognize and identify ourselves through affection.

DN: As a black poet and storyteller how have your experience been in getting your worked published?

MR: We have always been seen as having superhuman strength. During slavery this supposed super-human strength was seen as making us better laborers. Today that standard is again working against black writers and intellectuals. Black writers have to be “super human” to achieve success in this cruel and dishonest market. But despite the oppressive barriers of the white publishing market, we are continuing to fight and continue to publish, finding our own routes to success. Now we have a few black publishers here and in their contests we get to see black people telling and starring in our own stories. This was how I first got my work published and it is important and powerful when there is no space for acceptance in white publishing houses.

Marcelo Ricardo is a writer who has been touching the sensibility of young blacks with his writing. I’ll close the interview with an excerpt from his poem Black Bicha, published in the “Collective Poetics Enegrescence” (2016) a collection organized by black writers and editors from Bahia.

Toda bicha preta é violenta, por isso é violeta.
Vira o jogo, girassol,
Não amarga, Margarida,
Sorri rosa,
E sai perfumada de si, dama da noite.
Lembre-se sempre que olhar uma bicha preta:
Toda bicha preta é antes de tudo beleza forte, viado!

English –
All the black queers are violent, and so they are violets.
Change the game daisies,
Not so bitter, sunflower,
Smile rose,
And go out scented with yourself – queen of the night
And you, always remember when you look at a Bicha Preta –
Every black bicha is above all – strong, beautiful and queer!

Translation by Tiffany Ward
Photo via Marcelo

*Davi Nunes is a writer and poet born and raised in Salvador, Bahia. In 2013 he graduated from the State University of Bahia with a degree in Brazilian Literature. While at the university, he was the Editor of the academic journal “Cinzas no Café”. Shortly after graduation he published a string of literature including the children’s’ book “Bucala: A Pequena Princesa do Quilombo do Cabula” (Bucala: The Little Princess of the Cabula Quilombo). In 2015, his short story “Cinzas” (Ashes) was adapted for the screen. He currently maintains “Duque dos Banzos” his personal online collection of Afro-Brazilian literature and prose. Find him at coresbrilhantes.com