“It’s everyone from IMF and World Bank people to activists to restaurant workers,” says Mafe, a.k.a. Maria Fernanda Escobar, describing the crowd that musters each month for Maracuyeah, a pan-Latin dance party that’s become one of Washington’s most reliably thrilling nights on the town.
It’s a party without borders in every sense. For nearly two years, Maracuyeah has bounced across the city, from club to club, with no fixed address. Behind the turntables, Escobar and musical partner DJ Rat, a.k.a. Kristy Chavez-Fernandez, showcase Latin anthems that span hemispheres and decades, introducing new fans to vanguard rhythms and reminding others of homelands left behind.
“The concept for the party is reflecting the immigrant experience,” Escobar says. “Kids are listening to their parents’ cumbias and salsas and, like, [hip-hop].”
Chavez-Fernandez jumps in, “So your identity is literally in two places, and you don’t belong to either one, completely. You’re always more than one thing.”
Maracuyeah also aims to book touring DJs and live acts that might otherwise skip Washington, and tonight it’s Explosion Negra, a Medellin quintet that blends traditional Colombian folk with futuristic digital reggae, and Uproot Andy, a New York DJ specializing in sumptuous tropical bass.
But as promoters, Escobar and Chavez-Fernandez are more attentive to the faces in the crowd. Both have backgrounds as community organizers and see the dance floor as a space for sweaty social communion.
“We take the time to get out of the DJ booth and talk to people,” Escobar says. “It helps make people feel like they’re part of something.”
Those conversations spark easily. But eavesdropping on one is impossible. The music they spin is often unpredictable, but it’s always really loud.
House party. Columbia Heights. 2009. Chavez-Fernandez cued up “Merequeteke,” a chattering dance track by Mexican group Capullo. Then she spotted Escobar.
“She started a techno rhumba line that ended in a mosh pit,” Chavez-Fernandez says. “People were dancing on tables. I feel bad for the people whose house that was!”
Like many stories between these two, this one quickly disintegrates into laughter. At a corner table inside Restaurant Judy, a Salvadoran haunt on 14th Street NW, the duo noshes on a late-night dinner of pupusas while sipping Regia beer.