The Murder of Jorge Steven López Mercado
by Nick Mirzoeff — NYU
March 25, 2010 – 14:09
The New Everyday is the result of a two-year project undertaken by the New York Visual Culture Working Group housed at NYU and funded by its Humanities Initiative. In October 2009, I convened an “unconference” under the title The New Everyday. This event featured over 20 five-minute presentations towards a discussion of the new status of everyday life, including a remarkable clip from Carmen Oquendo-Villar’s forthcoming film The Needle.
The documentary centers on an underground beauty clinic in Puerto Rico, where men and women receive silicone, botox and other treatments, as well as share advice, ideas and support each other. Central to the film are a group of transgender sex workers, many of whom hope to use their work to fund their transitioning surgery.
A month later, as the discussions with Media Commons were underway to launch this e-journal, we heard the news of the brutal murder of Jorge Steven López Mercado, a nineteen year-old who was part of the crowd at the clinic but did not feature in the original film. It at once seemed right that this terrible event should be the subject of our first cluster.
Carmen Oquendo-Villar quickly cut a short excerpt from her footage, which will not appear in the finished film, to rebut the statements being made by or on behalf of the confessed killer Juan Martínez Matos (26). It was claimed that he was unaware that the location where he picked up Jorge Steven was frequented by transgender sex workers and that he was traumatized when he encountered Jorge Steven’s body. Oquendo-Villar’s short film makes it clear that such “mistakes” were extremely unlikely and describes the violence that the sex workers encounter everyday.
The other pieces in this cluster have responded to the murder, its dissemination in the news and electronic media, questions of “hate crime,” the extreme violence used by the killer, marriage equality and other rights issues and religious justifications for homophobia. Thanks to Carmen Oquendo-Villar’s advocacy, we are particularly pleased that several writers from Puerto Rico have contributed. Many thanks also to those who volunteered to translate pieces from Spanish to English.
This cluster emphasizes that violence and intolerance are not exceptional but central parts of everyday life. This violence forms a nexus of religion, law and politics that expresses the complexity of the quotidian. All the contributors welcome your comments, direct or indirect, at whatever length you would like. Please be a part of The New Everyday and contact me to curate your own cluster (see About The New Everyday).