As the Lost River Film Fest gears up to screen Hummingbirds (2023), Saturday, October 14th, Infrarrealista Review is thrilled to present an early glimpse of Dee Lalo Garcia’s piece on the film. What started as a review evolved into reflective musings by a fellow Laredo queerdo, which then culminated into an essay on the documentary. Y luego, pues…a leer.
I’ve never done a traditional film review, pero no se, this isn’t much of a film review. I don’t think Hummingbirds (2023), an indie documentary directed & following local Laredo artists Silvia Del Carmen Castaños (they/them) and Estefanía “Beba” Contreras (she/her) is much of a traditional film either; it’s much more than that, it’s an experience. Silvia and Beba’s summer-journey through the infamous Streets of Laredo, infused with elements of autofiction and rich local cultural references, not only sheds a light on la fe y ánimo that is often overshadowed by the area’s reputation, but also unveils the previously obscured presence of queer joy that I always denied could exist in the 956.
Pero, equis—I’ll get to that in a second. This wouldn’t be a genuine Laredoan point of view if I didn’t make this about myself first ~ahhh.
Como cualquier disgruntled, 20-something Laredoan who didn’t see themselves “thriving” within or beyond the city limits (lord knows I wasn’t meant to work Las Norias), I “acted out” instead of acting in accordance with the equilibrium that was established by our mothers, tias, and guela’s husband’s wishes. They wanted us to be proper, hard-working men who got their hands dirty, washed them clean by doing their prayers and going to church where we would—hopefully, si dios quire—meet a virgin to eventually fuck, and repeat the process all over again.
I don’t know about you, querido reader, but I’m tired of that cycle—I grew increasingly aware of it as I grew older. Openly living as a queer man wasn’t enough for me to understand I could put a dent in the heteronormative chingaderas that have a grip on nuestro querido Laredo; I had to do more, but I never did, despite my clear resentment. Rather than taking on the role expected of me, I embraced being a border queerdo. While my parents hoped I’d find solace in holy water at a Catholic church, I instead found it through mild alcohol poisoning at house parties, Hal’s Party Landing, in down-low guys’ bedrooms, and in the men’s bathroom at Whataburger on Mcpherson and Shiloh. Ironically, all these places had me on my knees more often than church did. Maybe it was the watchful eyes of my parents and their siblings, maybe it was the collective ojo that runs the city to the ground, maybe it was the disdain Father Chema whispered in my ear when I was a teenager during Sunday confessionals, but something always stopped me from being truly “seen.”
Taking flight with Hummingbirds is a heartwarming experience for a Laredoan like me who didn’t allow themselves to blush in front of local boys in public or know what it’s like to hold hands with some vato in front of the Cinemark at Mall Del Norte (“imagine dude” a timid voice whispers to a version of myself I’ve grown apart from.) To say this dreamy documentary healed my inner child is an understatement—particularly with scenes that showcase how intimate tarot card readings can be with a queer bestie, dancing to Top 40 hits at Taboo, and demanding to “ACCEPT OUR LOCAL GAYS” down San Bernardo Avenue – something I could have done myself.
When you witness queer joy occurring in a place you never thought that possible—a place you are constantly in a state of mourning with, a place that might not even be a place at all, but a state of mind that transcends time and space because it was yours and yours alone to experience, mold, and warp to your liking (or trauma)—you return to it. That shadow self that never got the chance to truly exist in the place you were conceived suddenly emerges via a visually stimulating narrative told by two out-and-proud Laredoans. That joy you longed for so desperately at one point was not only unveiled for others to experience, but might have also been present all along.
During a scene that parallels a wide shot at the beginning of the film, one that shows one of the last possible casa de cabmios along I-35, there’s a conversation between the leads:
Do you like Laredo?
I feel Iike I do. Like, I want to help it, like ]Ii want to give to my community right? But, I feel like I should leave and like get educated first.
But you will come back right?
Well yeah, obviously.
“Haunted” almost doesn’t suffice to describe what I’ve been feeling after watching Hummingbirds—there is a negative connotation with a word like that—what I’ve been experiencing is anything but; pero no sé dude; you and me, mi querido compadre, can’t help but feel like a ghost is sitting right between us.
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