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From discotheque to supermarket – the transformation of Peru’s largest LGBTQ nightclub

Explore images of Vale Todo Downtown’s new look

It was a Tuesday night in Lima, Peru. Revellers were getting more and more inebriated, while drag queens were getting ready for the night’s schedule. It was no different to any other night for Vale Todo Downtown, the largest LGBTQ club in Peru. Except this was the biggest night of the year; it was New Year’s Eve 2019.

Those nights out seem like a lifetime ago now. And not many people would have predicted the events that unfolded in 2020. As the coronavirus pandemic spread to practically every country in the world, our lifestyle was rapidly changing. Our habitual comings and goings were pared back to a minimum to help stem the spread of COVID-19.

For the staff at Vale Todo Downtown nightclub, this not only put their jobs in jeopardy, but their way of life. So the club’s general manager, Claudia Achuy, had a massive challenge in front of her. How was she going to keep her 120 employees on the books? And how were they going to keep engaging with LGBTQ community?

From dancefloor to shop floor

Fast-forward to June 2020, the club had seen a remarkable turnaround. The dancefloor was replaced by shelves of food and the bar had been transformed into a checkout area. But the DJ was still banging out tunes for shoppers at the transformed club now called Downtown Market.

While the makeover was essential for supporting the livelihoods of the staff at Downtown Market, it has an additional benefit for the LGBTQ community.

In between stacking shelves or guiding shoppers to the items they’re looking for, Uriel the Drag finds pleasure in telling stories about the history of the place or explaining her make-up process. “I love to make them realize that what we do is a form of art,” explains Uriel.

Most people are now familiar with what LGBTQ stands for. But not as many would have spoken to someone from the community. And when LGBTQ people have faced harassment, abuse and violence around the world, these kinds of interactions will help bring everyone together in Peru. If you don’t know what a drag queen artist is all about, you will after a few shops at Downtown Market.

Virtual parties keeping the community together

But what about those revelling night owls? The LGBTQ community come together in nightclubs like Vale Todo Downtown because they’re underrepresented in practically every facet of life. So when the one club where you feel truly like yourself is no longer running, what do you do?

Luckily, drag queens like Uriel have been throwing virtual parties with great success so that people can keep on dancing from their kitchens and living rooms.

Adaptability has always been one of humanity’s greatest strengths. We have the fortitude to make the most of any situation and the quick wits to find a new way forward. But once we all get over this wretched virus, there will be many rushing to get their dancing shoes back on.

This story couldn’t be told without the help of photographer Paco Chuquiure who shoots for Majority World. Majority World works with talented photographers across Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East specialising in sourcing high quality images from these diverse continents to provide unique insights into local cultures, environments and development issues. They just one of many amazing photo agencies who work with Alamy to uncover local stories.

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Matt Yau

Matt started off as a live music photographer covering up-and-coming bands in Brighton, and since then has become enamoured by the power of pictures. With a penchant for storytelling, he's on a mission to uncover unique images from the Alamy library and tell the story behind them.

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