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Colombia: Teen Produced Web Series about Gay Youth

Nineteen year old Jhoncito Arango's most recent web project has certainly caught the local media's eye in his native Colombia, where his web series “Yonkis” [es] has had a very good reception considering that it tackles a topic that is still considered highly sensitive in this Catholic country: homosexuality.

Yonkis: A teen gay world

Yonkis: A teen gay world

Back in October 2010 [es], Jhoncito Arango wrote on his blog [es]about a future project he had in mind: he would take advantage of his passion in videoblogging [es] to do something bigger- the first LGBT webshow in Colombia. He wrote [es]:

Esto nos ayudará a dar una nueva imagen sobre nosotros, sobre la comunidad LGTB, lograremos tumbar estereotipos y quizás reafirmaremos algunos otros, pero siempre teniendo presente en dar lo mejor de nosotros y demostrar que como jóvenes podemos ser participes del cambio y ser activistas de forma pacifica y positiva para nuestro colectivo del que nos sentimos orgullosos.

This will help us establish a new image about us, about the LGBT community, we will take down some stereotypes and maybe we will confirm others, but we will always try to give the best of us and show that as young people we can be part of the change and become peaceful and positive activists for the collective we belong to and which makes us proud.

Launch preparation

Through his weekly participation [es] on a collaborative videoblog “The 7 Superstars”, Arango also told his followers about his project, explaining that after 6 months absence, he was returning better and stronger than ever.

Having got back with his long-term boyfriend, started a university career in audiovisual arts, and commenced Yonkis, the series about gay teens in Medellin which he is responsible for creating, writing, acting, directing, producing and editing. With so much invested in the series he also kicked off a strong promotional campaign including teasers, trailers and character profiles, prepping the stage for the serie's premiere:

His fanbase, cultivated through years of publishing videos, has responded positively to his show, and the first episode has already more than 5700 views only a week after being released on April 11, 2011. Comments and ratings on the videos tend towards the positive side of the spectrum.

In the first episode [es], we follow Juan Pablo, who has left home after falling out with his homophobic father. Juan Pablo settles in Medellin and meets a new group of friends, the Yonkis, who will show him around the city and then he'll meet the group's rival gang, the Pink Boys:

Reactions from viewers

In a comment on the episode, JJcamachom wrote:

HEY!! Pelaos!! Bacano el proyecto la verdad… desde que vi los teaser me pareció bacano… solo espero que no se encacillen solamente en esos líos de loca callejera… Espero que de verdad muestren el otro lado… pienso personalmente que el mundo gay (y mas el paisa) está muy consumido por la calle, el alcohol, las drogas, la superficialidad… Espero que impregnen el programa con profundidad… van a tener muchos visitantes así que incentiven cosas bacanas también… fidelidad, respeto, etc.

HEY!! Kids!! Awesome project, really… since I saw the teasers I thought it would be great… I only hope that you don't pigeonhole it only in those fights of streetwalking queen… I hope that you really show the other side… I personally believe that the gay world (and more so the paisa [person from the coffee producing region of Colombia]) is obsessed by the streets, alcohol, drugs and superficiality… I hope that you douse the program with depth… you will have many visitors so also try to encourage  cool things as well… fidelity, respect, etc.

But of course there have also been detractors, and Jhoncito addresses the feedback they've received in this post on the project's Tumblr page [es], thanking viewers for positive feedback and constructive criticism which will help them improve. He also replies to criticism and complaints about how the show's characters are swishy, queens and effeminate.

What Jhoncito gives them as an answer is that the characters are that way because they themselves are that way, and that for an LGBT community to fight homophobia they have to get rid of discrimination within their own diverse community.  He also sets up an invitation: any group which doesn't feel represented by the series should go ahead and do one of their own, showing how they live within the gay community and they'll have the Yonkis’ full support.

The second episode received more than 300 visits in less than one day. One of the Pink Boys steals a bracelet Juan Pablo received from his ex-girlfriend, and the Yonkis go to get it back, but they are challenged to a dance-off and they will need to beat the Pink Boys if they want the bracelet back. The two gangs meet in a park and as they prepare for the choreographed dance competition, they realize that reaching a common ground will be harder than they thought:

The Yonkis series has also been showcased in Colombian newspapers [es], radio and TV shows.  In this radio interview [es], Jhoncito candidly replies to the presenter's question regarding hurdles in producing a gay webshow, stating that technical issues are particularly hard and seems almost surprised when the presenter suggests that discrimination could be a hurdle as well, since according to Arango, people have been very supportive of this initiative.

They were also featured in Version Beta, a show on a regional network also available through streaming and fully online produced by Puntolink [es], who are very strong videobloggers themselves with experience running a webshow of their own. In this episode of VersionBeta [es], the presenter shows how the mentality towards sexual diversity might be changing for the better in Colombia. As she presents the Yonkis project and leads into showing parts of the first episode, she warns parents about the strong content they are about to watch: asking them not to cover their children's eyes or ears, but rather to take the opportunity to talk to them about sexual diversity.

You can follow Yonkis through Facebook, Twitter, tumblr and YouTube.

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