Mexican Jihad

Interview by
Zak Stone
Photography by
Rodrigo Álvarez

Alberto's Fuck Fest

Alberto Bustamante – known to party people as Mexican Jihad – is a sexed-up, jack of all trades in magnetic Mexico City. While loads of gringos descend on the country’s hot beaches, Alberto is busy making underground culture happen in CDMX, doing everything from directing a psychedelic inspired pop opera, to obsessively self-branding gear – like flip flops and his sling. How gay is that! He’s also the photographer of the following friendly fuck function hosted in the dungeon under his gallery.

Zak: I loved that it was in the New York Times where I found out you have a sex dungeon in your house. Is that where you took these photos?
Alberto: Yes, those pictures were taken during an orgy that I organized. I mean, hosting an orgy can be super easy, but we needed to take pictures. Everybody needed to be okay with that.
So it was, like, an open invitation?
We asked everybody to invite hookup buddies or their recurring lovers. In the end, it was only eight of us. A close circle of friends – sort of like my fetish group. Having sex between friends is way more complicated than with strangers. It was very intimate. I know it sounds cliché, but it felt like a safe space where everybody knew each other, everybody was comfortable, and in the end, it was really fun.
Did you all already have sex before?
Yeah, many already had sex with each other, and some were new to each other, which was healing in a way.
For example, Pedro’s ex-boyfriend was there and his current lover, and it was nice to see how everybody fucked each other.
It was an interesting exercise.
Tell me about the masks you’re wearing
We made these gimp masks based on the face that my friend Andrés Gudiño uses in his art. Having the masks makes the situation a little bit more playful since everybody allows themselves to be someone else. You become this character, so you feel somehow more relaxed or free to perform. I mean, everybody knows who everybody is – we have tattoos, body marks or whatever. Pero, wearing the mask allows you to be a little bit more anonymous.
Is this the first time that the dungeon was utilized in that way? Or had it been broken in already?
It was broken in. It was just the first time that we used it to make public content.
Is it a fantasy that you’ve had for a while? To have a dungeon in your own home?
I guess so, yeah. When I first moved into that place, I was like, ‘The basement! Oh my God, there’s a lot of potential.’ But I wasn’t in a time of my life where I was able to live that fantasy until recently. Even if you’re attracted to BDSM, it takes time and resources to get there. Like, you can’t really buy leather when you’re 20. You can’t really get into that lifestyle until you have disposable income to say, ‘Fuck it, I’m gonna spend it on my sex life.’ And I guess for me I came to this moment of saying, ‘I’m a gay man. I want to do this. Why not?’ Like, I’m gonna start playing domestic, and instead of investing in a kitchen, I’m gonna have a sex room.
What was the budget for creating the dungeon?
It was done little by little. The first thing I did was install the floor. It’s made out of this plastic rubber used in gyms.
Like those square puzzle pieces?
Exactly. Those. So it’s a little bit cushier, and you can get on your knees. Then the second thing, what really makes the room, is the sling. So I had that custom made by this leathermaker that I found. I had it engraved with the NAAFI logo. It’s become sort of a fetish of mine to, like, brand everything NAAFI. Then I took the mattress from the guest room. And something that was really lovely was that my sex partners or fuck buddies all chipped in. So like, one gave me a little table, another one brought the stools. It became assembled by my lovers.

BUTT - Mexicanjihad_2
Alberto is always excited to sniff out adventure of biblical proportions in his hometown of 22 million.

You have a background in architecture, so I’m curious if you looked to certain dungeons for inspiration in the design.
Not really. I remember a few summers ago, I went to NYC Downlow, which is the gay club that happens during Glastonbury, the big festival in the UK. It was the best gay club I’ve seen in my whole life: the best lineup and it had this amazing dark room. And at some point the organizer, Gideön, introduced me to the architect of the dark room, and was like, ‘This is the best dark room architect in Europe.’ And I was like, ‘Whoa, a dark room architect?!’ There really is such a thing. So that was kind of the inspiration. I guess what gives character to the space are its stone walls – like, immediately it’s a dungeon. But it’s really fascinating when you show the place to a new boy. Immediately you see something turning in their gaze. You instantly walk into this space that’s specifically designed to have sex, and you become more playful. I mean, you’ll see when you come to the house next time – it really has its own character.
Cute. Thank you for the invitation.
Always. Maybe in that sense, the Tom of Finland House in LA is also a reference for what I’m trying to build because it’s a cultural center and artist residency. You get to see all of this extended gay family of artists that are living there and doing programs and taking pictures. And then, something really special, the last time I was there Durk Dehner showed us the dungeon and it was very shocking…
Yeah, I was going to say.
Durk said to my friend Pepx, a performance artist, ‘Get in the cage.’ And Pepx, this risqué performer, was totally afraid. I was like, ‘Come on, get into the cage, Pepx.’ They didn’t want to go inside! But I guess visiting there was a moment of realizing that you’ve got to have infrastructure if you want to generate content and have the opportunity to bring the sex aspect of gay life more into the public realm.
So you mentioned the NAAFI branding on the sling. Can you describe what the NAAFI brand is all about for someone who doesn’t know it?
NAAFI is my biggest brand. It’s the project I’ve been working on for the past 12 years. Publicly, it’s described as a record label. We edit club and dance music. Right now we’re really focusing on releasing proper club bangers, like singles from new artists that we’re meeting along the way. The label has come to a very mature, established point where now it’s running itself. We know the rhythm, we know the mechanism, and we can keep proposing fresh sounds for the dance floor. But NAAFI has taken many different forms. It’s been a DJ collective for a while, a production house and a studio for a little bit, and it also spills into a broader merch line where I design everything from T-shirts to beach sandals, towels. Pretty much everything, I guess.
The whole wardrobe.
(laughs) I’ve done everything from poppers to dime bags, branded NAAFI. The NAAFI logo is sort of attached to my life and whatever I make.

I'm gonna start playing domestic, and instead of investing in a kitchen, I'm gonna have a sex room.

But now you’re calling this new gallery space and dungeon Mexican Jihad and Co. Why did you decide to switch it up and use your personal DJ name?
It’s about being more specific about what I do. The first big brand that I developed was NAAFI. To put it in broader themes, it was underground, alternative, club, weird, dark, athletic, authoritative, or, I don’t know, authoritarian. Then I specialized. I got tired of the underground party, and I started Traición, which was a little bit more centered in queer performance, different identities, and the full sexual spectrum. And then I became really bored with the whole queer identity politics, como, side of things. And I was like, ‘Let’s go back to my letter and focus on the G – like in gay.’ And I guess that’s what Mexican Jihad & Co. means for me. It’s taking a special interest in the homosocial space, the gay men that are around me: my lovers, my friends.
It’s like I went from the club to the queer to the gay space. Maybe this sounds corny, but it’s like this self-affirmation where now I’m fully empowered within my identity and who I am. And that means being specific. Maybe 5 or ten years ago, I wasn’t comfortable enough with presenting my brand, or my work as gay sex or gay lifestyle. And now I’m in the space where this is what I want to do and how I want to present myself to the world.
That trajectory is really interesting. It does feel like there’s an opening now for doing things that are gay-specific that don’t have to feel like they’re being exclusive to the rest of the queer community.
I mean, there’s real consequences in this tendency of trying to queerify or diversify everything. Like all these party spaces and moments and situations that used to be exclusive to gay men. One of them, for example – and this became really exacerbated by the pandemic – is how gay men really socialize their sex and sexualize their social life. A lot of gay parties were also a sex space for us historically. And when the party became diverse, a lot of that sex activity went away. It went back into private spaces, like apartments and hotel rooms.
And when you think about the actual consequences of that, you get intersected with chem sex, substance abuse. This retreating back into privacy, obscurity, anonymity, hasn’t had many good outcomes – at least, in my immediate surroundings. We’ve seen new issues popping off.
Like what?
I’d say there’s a chem sex epidemic in Mexico City. Once I became aware of that, and I started seeing the effects it had on my immediate context and my immediate surroundings, I was like, ‘Wait, we actually need to think about the spaces and the sex situations for gay men,’ because we do need them. Historically, we built them, not for the whole queer spectrum, but for whoever feels comfortable in those moments. You know what I mean? You can even see it in the app culture, the hookup culture. Whereas Grindr is getting rainbow, Sniffies is rising up. There’s this desire again for like, the nasty aspects. Not everybody wants to be “love is love” and accepted or fit into society. A lot of men still relish filth, and that’s not gonna go away.
I want to hear you talk more about the chem sex epidemic as it’s happening in Mexico City. Obviously, there’s addiction, and there’s dabbling for fun. Where do you see the problem?
To start talking about this subject, we need to realize that for gay men the intersection of sex and drug use has been there a long time. We’ve used substances forever. What’s become different is the context and use of smartphones. The apps have become an extension of our bodies, our desire. And whereas before, we used to look for specific times and moments to engage with sex, now it’s become available anytime, anywhere, everywhere. That has increased the window and the chances of being hooked. Some of my lovers started having problematic substance use. And two years ago, I started attending – this is gonna sound horrible, pero – a group where men get together and talk about their sex experiences and their substance use. It’s not like an AA meeting. It happens every month. People get together, and they talk, and it was very enlightening. It was like a sort of breakthrough moment to hear all of these men talk about their experiences. For a lot of gay men chem sex spaces, or “chills”, or these group scenarios, are a healing moment where a lot of empathy and conversations and intimacy happen.
Do you see them that way?
There’s something super radical and super dangerous to talk about the chill as an intimacy space or a healing space. It’s kind of contradictory, but it is the reality. It has become like that. In my personal experience too: I have gone to chem sex and group sex to heal some emotional trauma or breakups. I do find that potentiality for intimacy there, and I think it can be a beautiful experience. Pero, when you don’t have something else going on in your life, it can become super problematic.


Do you feel Mexico City nightlife has evolved since you first started throwing parties with NAAFI?
Definitely. Right now, it finally feels like there’s a healthy ecosystem with many different spaces and promoters, and a lot more visibility as far as different identities representing and inhabiting the night space. I also feel a little bit proud about it, but I don’t dare take all the credit. I can see the effort a lot of people around me put into the nightlife and how the whole scenario has changed – from door policies to lineups to people willing to pay for a good party.
It definitely feels like there is more going on than ever.
Yeah, but then there’s stuff that hasn’t changed and can be improved. Whereas you think of Mexico City as a party city, but we don’t really have proper clubs with, like, bathrooms, sound systems, etc. We’re sticking more to the underground side where a promoter has to come into an illegal space and build an instant club for one night, like bringing a bar, the staff, the booze, the sound. I think when that gets professionalized, it’s going to be even better.
Is there anything holding back promoters?
It’s really hard owning a night space in Mexico City because of the intersection with the cartel. Like if you want to be a club owner, you kind of have to be willing to be a mafioso. And what does that mean? You got to have money to navigate the corrupt environment. And also, the power to exist and be safe there. You have to be aware of what that means. Like, you can’t just throw around selling points like “safe space” or “community” when all of a sudden your night can become a nightmare for a myriad of factors that are not in your hands.
Have you had experiences with the cartel at your own parties?
Well, a security strategy for our parties has always been to be a nomadic party. Whenever you stay in a place longer and it becomes evident that money’s being generated, that’s when the cartel comes in and says, ‘Either you let us come inside and sell drugs, or you pay us to stay outside.’ We have had scenarios where our whole staff has been kidnapped and tied up for a few hours. And we’re like, ‘Okay, let’s leave.’ There are specific areas of the city where we can’t have a party. I guess this idea of me going into my own space, literally into my basement, has to do with it. I became tired of producing events and parties in this very complicated context.

Let's go back and focus on the G – like in gay.

How have things changed since COVID, with so many more Americans either living in Mexico City or visiting?
It’s a touchy subject. It would be – how can I say this? – presumptuous of me to criticize gentrification and the Americanization of a city which, for the past 10 years, I have been promoting in every media that I can. It’s also very egotistical to think that this is something new. I mean, Mexico City has been a cosmopolitan city for generations. There’s always been foreigners. And to think that that responsibility is in the hands of promoters and the media, it’s a little bit obtuse and a little bit naive. Like, the real gentrifying factors are smartphones – Airbnb, Google Maps – there’s so many other factors that have made the world and many cities easier to navigate.
Right. But has the crowd changed?
I guess the critique would be, yes, the recent gringos aren’t the most interesting group to show up in a city. There are the early adopters, the risk takers, the interesting people that were coming eight to ten years ago, and we’re now getting the “bad hombres”, like Trump says. We also have to keep in mind that this idea of Mexico City that gringos have in their mind is basically four areas: Roma, Condesa, Juárez, Downtown. To attribute the whole name of Mexico City to those four trendy neighborhoods – it’s very problematic.
Can you talk a little bit about Zipolite? The most popular new beach destination for a certain gay. Is it a similar situation to Mexico City?
You have to go back in time. Zipolite was founded by hippies from the US who were looking for the best place to see the solar eclipse that happened in the 60s. That specific event in history also triggered the consumption of psilocybin. Back then, Zipolite wasn’t connected to the main roads so all these people went through the rain forest and founded this nudist beach – the first and only legal nudist beach in the whole country. So since its foundation Zipolite had this sort of free hippie attitude. Then in the 90s – this is another intersection with substance – Zipolite was an enclave for heroin and opioid users.

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Boys who visit Alberto's dungeon will be thrilled to know that he studied architecture.

You grew up nearby in Oaxaca, right?
Yeah. When I was growing up Zipolite had a really bad reputation. I couldn’t say to my parents, ‘I’m gonna go to Zipolite.’ They’d say, ‘Oh, no, you’re not!’ It had this stigma. Now fast forward to the pandemic, and it really became a bubble of privilege. All these gay men from around the world who had the free time and the money to escape gathered there. It became this really interesting mix of guys from all over – choreographers, casting directors, fashion designers, architects, photographers – it was really cool, a good melting pot. And then, of course, everybody started Instagramming it.
And then a million more people found out about it.
Exactly. After the pandemic, Zipolite just exploded. It’s not something new, but it did get mediatized or exacerbated. It sounds problematic to advertise it, but it’s such a beautiful place that it feels kind of selfish to gatekeep. For me it’s this contradiction: if you care for something, do you keep it to yourself? Or do you share it? For the past three years I’ve been playing this really amazing party-slash-orgy at Playa del Amor in Zipolite a few days before New Year’s.
I’ve heard it’s insane. Isn’t everyone dancing naked on the beach and having sex?
Basically. It’s on the 28th of December. I don’t know if they have the equivalent in the US, pero in Mexico, that day is known as the Día de los Santos Inocentes.
Is it a Christian thing?
It’s a biblical reference to when King Herod heard about baby Jesus being born and had all the newborns killed. So, I guess it makes sense that we celebrate with an orgy. (laughs)

Everyone's naked. People are crowd surfing on the mass of bodies.

Did you guys create the orgy concept, or have gay guys in Mexico been doing it on that day for a while?
That’s hard to say. It’s supposed to be, like, a historical tradition. But at the same time, it may have been a foundational myth created by the people that were doing the beach party during the pandemic.
They befriended the two local palapas on Playa del Amor and convinced them to bring in DJs. At the same time, they didn’t want to turn the Playa del Amor into this party destination. They didn’t want to publish a flier or make it go down too often. They started doing parties every full moon and nobody advertized it. People just knew, or were lucky enough to show up that night and boom: there was a DJ. Everybody’s dancing naked, and you have this dark room.
Dark room?
Well, it’s moronic to describe it like that because it’s just a cove on an open beach. You can go join the orgy, and then come back to the dance floor. It’s not exclusively gay. I mean, yeah, 90 percent of the crowd is gay men. Pero, it’s a very friendly, welcoming place. There’s straight couples, lesbian couples, whatever.
Is there any one image of something insanely hot that sticks with you from Playa del Amor?
Last year, I drove 15 hours there from Mexico City for a set. I stepped onto this shaky wooden platform and was like, ‘Oh, my God, why am I doing this? Why do I put myself in this situation?’ But then, deejaying there for three, four hours, and witnessing what was happening in front of me, I knew. It was like this biblical image of Sodom and Gomorrah, where you can see excess, debauchery. But it’s also super beautiful. Everyone’s naked. People are crowd surfing on the mass of bodies. And then to the left, you see a train of guys connected to each other. It’s too much. And it’s so beautiful.

Originally published in BUTT 33