This article originally appeared on VICE Brazil.
Manaus's goths really suffer for their art. They traipse around the Amazon capital in heavy black bodices, chunky black boots, and mountains of eyeliner, attracting the sun like a moody solar panel. Fascinated by their determination to stay goth in a place where the annual average temperature is 79º F, I tracked a few of them down.
I found 41-year-old stockman Lúcio Ruiz hanging around the Parque dos Bilhares on one blazing hot Friday night. Ruiz first discovered the Cure's Head in the Door years ago. Fascinated by Robert Smith's red lipstick, blurred makeup, and messy hair, he began to research the goth subculture.
"I heard that song and began to wonder what it was all about. Where did people like Robert Smith hang out? Then I watched Edward Scissorhands and read Bram Stoker's Dracula. Eventually, me and some other people sort of created our own scene here. We started looking at Vincent van Gogh's art, reading Casimiro de Abreu's poetry, and then we realized that we were growing in numbers," he said. Ruiz now also runs Bela Lugosi Is Dead—one of the few events that celebrates goth subculture in Manaus.
Lúcio was accompanied by his wife, 28-year-old Cristiane Ruiz. When they first met, she was a traditional forró dancer. It was much later on that she fell in love with gothic fashion and music. "I used to think that it wasn't for me. I thought it was too sad and a little bit stupid. Lúcio and I used to argue a lot about it, but, little by little, I began to understand it," she said.
Many of the people I interviewed didn't consider themselves to be full-on goths, which made me think that being a goth must entail a certain amount of humility. "Considering myself goth is bit much, but I've been supporting the scene since 2000. I can't believe it's been fifteen years already," continued Cristiane.
Not unlike other similar scenes around the world, the Manaus goth scene is seen by some as having ties to Satanism, black magic, drugs, and murders. That could also explain people's reluctance to identify as goth. A quick Google search of the words "goth" and "Manaus" produces a series of tabloid news stories linking the subculture to murders and strange rituals. "This has created problems with our families as well as the general community. In a city like ours, which is a developing province, people carry certain prejudices," said Lúcio.
"Nobody seems to understand that someone can be a goth and pay their rent and taxes at the same time," he went on. "They don't get that it could be someone who raises children, who works and contributes to society. We shouldn't have to put up with that kind of bias."
Aside from the prejudice, there's one more thing that makes life difficult for Brazil's goths—the humidity. No hairstyle or makeup can keep up with it.
It took Lúcio three years to get used to wearing gothic clobber in the sweltering temperatures of Manaus. "The heat is something that contradicts our philosophy and style, which originate from a colder environment," he said. "But there are ways to deal with the heat. You just have to drink lots of water."
"Most of our events take place at night, when it gets a bit cooler so we can wear clothes that are a bit more elaborate," his friend, Valéria Smith, added.
Wearing a top hat that framed her meticulously curly hair, another goth called Luciana Silva exclaimed, "The heat is intense, but it's normal. It doesn't stop me from dressing the way that I want."
But things aren't as simple for Cristiane. "My mother and my sisters don't like any of it. They think it's strange that I dress this way when it's hot."
Basically, the city's climate functions like a natural selection system—filtering out those who don't take the lifestyle seriously. "It's only for those who really embrace our culture and really want to be goths," said Lúcio.
Unlike São Paulo, where goths have easy access to clothes and accessories at stores like Galeria do Rock, goths in Manaus have to be their own personal stylists. Lúcio and Cristiane look for clothes at second-hand stores or customize pieces themselves.
Twenty-one-year-old Angel Lorrane is a big fan of DIY. "I buy some of my pieces and make some other ones myself. I don't make a living through fashion, but I like to create my own style."
The city doesn't have many events dedicated to EBM, synth pop, dark-wave, or post-punk, but, when there happens to be one, people come out of the woodwork. "We make events that attract people from the punk, thrash metal, and black metal scenes. At first people seem shy. It's only if they see that nobody they know is around that they allow themselves to enjoy whatever music is playing. Manaus needs to achieve a musical maturity—people need to understand that everyone has different tastes and respect each other's space," Lúcio said.
It seems like these little black dots are determined to keep appearing around Manaus, overcoming any social, climate, or territorial adversities. "I would like to finish by quoting Lupicínio Rodriguez," said Lúcio at the end of the interview. "'There are people who leave the sky because it is dark so they search for light in hell.' That's a very gothic quote, but it is actually from a 1950s samba song. It all depends on the way each of us chooses to read art."