With no narrator, no frills and some dodgy English subtitles, Yo No Soy Guapo is an undiluted blast of life-and-music in working class Mexico City. Joyce Garcia’s fly-on-the-wall documentary explores the tradition of the sonidero—the DJ-slash-announcer who commands the mic while the sound system blasts cumbia and salsa to an audience of all ages and proclivities.
There’s the shy, devoted El Duende, who would rather go hungry than miss out on a new record, and there’s Lupita La Cigarrita—a rare sonidera in a macho world, a feisty, fast-talking character who spends much of the film arguing with cops.
It’s a familiar antagonism for lovers of loud music: the nebulous connection, in the minds of the authorities, between a huge speaker stack and undesirable behaviour. Somehow, the music itself becomes the catalyst for chaos, a libidinal force that must be stamped out before the “thugs” invade. But, La Cigarrita points out, where else are they supposed to go? Poor people can’t afford to hire a venue—yet the city won’t give them a permit for a street party. Relentless and righteous, she channels a deeper anger at the marginalisation of the poor and the cruel technocracy of the modern city: “They’re our streets. They’re not theirs. They’re everybody’s.”