Scholars explore identities of queer Latinos during daylong symposium

Mariana Alfaro, Assistant Campus Editor

More than 150 people gathered Friday to explore the intersection of queer and Latino identities at a daylong symposium in Annie May Swift Hall.

“Queer Latinidades” featured three different panels and a reading with a diverse group of professionals from around the country. All of the panelists were connected in some way to the study of Latin-American history and culture as well as the LGBTQ community.

Northwestern doctoral student Aarón Aguilar-Ramírez, one of the organizers of the event, said spaces where queer Latinos can share their perspectives and experiences are rare.

“We can’t take for granted that there is such a space where we can talk about our lives and see us represented in a space and see ourselves and each other in that space,” he told The Daily. “I think one of the big takeaways (of the event) is that, the newness of this kind of space … where we can critically talk about Queer Latinidad.”

Frances Aparicio, director of the Latina and Latino Studies Program, said the program’s focus this year has been about gender and sexuality in Latino studies. She said the symposium was a way to tie together the topics discussed throughout this academic year’s lecture series as well as other events hosted by the program.

“I think queer theory has been very mainstream in some ways and I think queer Latino scholars have been making very significant interventions in terms of understanding sexualities through the intersection of race and nationality, culture,” she told The Daily. “So those are also important intersections to look at that queer and mainstream queer theory has not done.”

She said the different identities in the LGBTQ spectrum are important to be “teased out” and understood in more profound ways, which is why she hopes the program will promote more discussion of these issues.

Topics discussed during the event included history of the LGBTQ community in Latino culture, different identities within the community, including the identity of “undocuqueers,” which are undocumented members of the LGBTQ community in America, and the identity of “feeling brown.”

Sandra Soto, a professor of gender and women’s studies at the University of Arizona, was one of the participants in the final panel. She emphasized the importance of bringing such topics — which when discussed in a broader context rarely intersect — into conversation.

She referred to her colleague Francisco Galarte, who was also participating in the panel, when talking about how discussing such topics sometimes “wrecks havoc” in their faculty meetings at the University of Arizona.

Medill sophomore Daisy Villegas, who attended the last panel, said events like the symposium help explore what it means to be both queer and Latino, especially since Latino culture can make such discussions hard to navigate.

“The dominant narrative of being Latino or Latina is about being heteronormative and being cisgender, and it’s very patriarchal,” she said. “I think that’s a large reason why there isn’t much focus on … the queer side of being Latino/Latina.”

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