(From 2004, after a stint in Quito and Cuenca, Ecuador.)You’re unlikely to find the Prohibido Centro Cultural listed in any of the travel brochures for Cuenca, Ecuador– this by decree of the township. Part venue, café, freakshowcase, and family home, the Prohibido is a haven for everything rad and unnatural in the hills of Ecuador, a little riverfed cave for the “artes extremos” (their words) of all shapes and timber. Every centimeter of the place drips with that fetishmetal/fallen angel aesthetic that we have come to associate with the Latin American underground. An aesthetic that is simultaneously, though not paradoxically, both satanic and baroquely Catholic. Guillotines, lizardwomen, tarantulas, fully-erect jesi on the cross, spicily-themed totempoles, superintense crayola art by the resident child genius, sculpture made from real human skulls and bits and vertebrae, and— let’s not forget— countless young Cuencanos thrilled to finally have access to such a thriving black market of ideas. I discovered the place by accident, trying to find a nice grassy spot near the river. I was welcomed from the very first by dueño and impresario Eduardo Moscoso, who spent hours with me swapping tips and tales on clashes with our respective communities and our more general exile from Common Sense.
Certainly, Eduardo fully understands his destiny. He is building yet another stronghold in a worldwide kulturkampf: the forces of Rad versus the grumps, the realists, the unrad, the earlybirds, and the bottom-liners. It is a clash of utopias, many times battled out in terms of square footage and mob-run real estate, as the recent purges and evictions in Olneyville, Providence well attest. Our vision of a culture running on energy rather than money is anything but universal, and many of our foes will fight us to the last gasp for the lofty cause of city revenue. I cannot remember another time in my life when I’ve had such a thoroughgoing contempt for money, or more specifically moneythink.
What makes Eduardo such a valiant soldier is that he is bringing hell and heavy metal thunder to Ecuador of all places, a land where the hottest new things to have washed upon the shores are pogs and Evenflow. When the Prohibido began, some six years ago, he even chose the superconservativo Cuenca over the relatively liberal Guayaquil as a matter of strategy, as a Trojan horse delivered into the center of Ecuadorian traditionalism. I don’t think Eduardo is anti-Catholic or against Andean folkways, as such. He is, rather, deeply aestheticist; dedicating the Prohibido to an arte puro, free from the say-so of local law, politics, ideology, and men-of-business. It is only here, beyond the span of all constraints and preconceptions, that Eduardo believes we find our surest essence (which, in his many paintings, photos, and other creations, often assumes the form of a cute leatherclad vampress).
But unlike in the States, where similar struggles usually have root in “market pressures,” Eduardo faces real ideological opposition from many folks that are perfectly happy with their trusty, timeworn folkways. His battle is sure to get bloodier, but he’ll man his post. He is willing to give his all for another free space, another acre in the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth, where everyone is, if not rad themselves, at least openly tolerant of the radness of others…
Curious persons can find the Prohibido by foot on the Cruz del Vado, peatonal La Condamine 12-102, in Cuenca, Ecuador.
Or, by mouse, at http://www.prohibidocc.com