While activists like Laverne Cox and Janet Mock have increased the visibility of transgender people in the United States, there’s still a lot that most Americans don’t know about transgender communities outside of the mainland. Mala Mala, a documentary profiling Puerto Rican transgender activists and drag queens, features a diversity of voices often overlooked in the American media. The documentary premiered on the film festival circuit last year, and was released in theaters this summer.
Dan Sickles and Antonio Santini, directors and producers of Mala Mala, joined Latino USA‘s Daisy Rosario to talk about the making of the film, the challenges faced by the LGBT community in Puerto Rico, and the development of their own artistic identity.
When you think of mariachi musicians, you’re probably picturing the sombreros, the Mexican cowboy or charro outfit and the mustachioed Mexican men serenading in them. And even though women can perform in mariachi bands and there are all-female mariachi groups, mariachi music and culture is very male-dominated. We found a mariachi group in Los Angeles that’s trying to change that.
Introducing Mariachi Arcoiris de Los Ángeles, or Rainbow Mariachi of L.A. in English. They’re the first openly LGBTQ mariachi in Los Angeles, and probably, the world. Mariachi Arcoiris director Carlos Samaniego created the group in 2014 as a “safe space” for LGBTQ musicians and fans. Since then, they’ve played at Gay Pride celebrations in Los Angeles, gay weddings and even at one of L.A.’s most important mariachi festivals, the Mariachi Plaza Festival. And they’ve made the rounds on outlets like Univision and Telemundo featuring Natalia Melendez, the world’s first openly transgender woman in the history of mariachi.
Picture courtesy of Mariachi Arcoiris de los Angeles, from left to right: Natalia Melendez, Carlos Samaniego, Maria Peñaloza, Zach Groll, Rodolfo Vasquez, Michael Tejada, Amadeo Arias and Jerry Ibarra.
Christina Herrera began her transition from male to female when she was very young; she began to take hormones when she was 16 years old. At the time, Christina was living in New York City during the height of the AIDS epidemic. She watched as the disease devastated her community. A self-titled “Translatina,” Christina shared with us her journey from a young boy in El Salvador to a strong woman living in New York.
Asher Diaz was born and raised in the Midwest and transitioned from female to male when he was in his mid-twenties. For Asher, the change brought him closer to the one member of his family that he thought would be least likely to support his decision.
As the fight for immigration reform rages on, and LGBTQ activists continue to make great strides towards equal rights, one group that doesn’t quite fit neatly into either box are LGBTQ immigrants.
This is especially true when undocumented LGBTQ immigrants get put into immigration detention.
Erika Sanchez recently wrote about this issue for truth-out.org. Latino USA Producer Daisy Rosario spoke to Sanchez and to a young man named Jonathan Perez who entered detention voluntarily.
Erika L Sánchez is a poet and writer living in Chicago. Her work has been published in Cosmopolitan for Latinas, NBCLatino, Truthout, Salon, Rolling Stone, Al Jazeera, The Guardian, and other publications. She is a recipient of a Fulbright Scholarship and the 2013 “Discovery”/Boston Review poetry prize. Find her on Facebook, or Twitter.
Jonathan Perez is a queer undocumented immigrant from Colombia, and a Founder of the Immigrant Youth Coalition in California. Perez organized successfully to stop punitive discipline policies and successfully led a campaign to build 3 new schools in his community in Los Angeles. He soon realized that he could no longer remain in the shadows. The youth who looked up to him, many of whom who were also undocumented, pushed him into immigrants’ rights work. His journey has taken him from civil disobedience to being locked up in an immigration detention center.
Ingrid Duran co-founded a newly launched campaign called “Familia es Familia,” aimed at fostering a greater acceptance of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people within the Latino Community. Host Maria Hinojosa talks with her and with Anthony Romero of American Civil Liberties Union.
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Ingrid M. Duran is Co-Founder & Principal of D&P Creative Strategies, a company that she and partner Catherine founded in 2004 to increase the role of corporate, legislative and philanthropic efforts in addressing the concerns of Latinos, women, and gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) communities. Prior to starting D&P, Ingrid was President & CEO of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, where she expanded on an already extensive professional network that included members of Congress, elected officials and Fortune 500 executives.
Anthony D. Romero is the Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union, the nation’s premier defender of liberty and individual freedom. He took the helm of the organization just four days before the September 11, 2001 attacks. Romero also led the ACLU in establishing the John Adams Project, a joint effort with the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers to assist the under-resourced military defense lawyers in the Guantánamo military commissions. Born in New York City to parents who hailed from Puerto Rico, Romero was the first in his family to graduate from high school. He is a graduate of Stanford University Law School and Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public Policy and International Affairs. He is a member of the New York Bar Association and has sat on numerous nonprofit boards.
There are more than 30 LGBTQ youth centers across the U.S., but few target the Spanish-speaking community specifically. That’s why La Clinica del Pueblo, a community health center in the predominantly Latino neighborhood of Columbia Heights, Washington DC opened Empoderate. It’s a bilingual center that provides counseling, support, and free HIV testing to LGBTQ youth in the area.
This piece was produced by Lily Percy, edited by Maria Martin & mixed by Claire Schoen. It’s part of a year-long series examining health issues facing Latinos.
Latino USA’s year-long look at Latinos and Health is made possible by funding from Pfizer Helpful Answers®, a family of patient assistance programs for the uninsured and underinsured who need help getting Pfizer medicines.
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For the news, Maria Hinojosa speaks with gay rights activist Andres Duque about the current state of gay rights in Latin America. Duque says hate crimes are on the rise in Mexico but at the same time, gays are being elected to public office throughout Latin America. Duque’s blog is called “Blabbeando.”
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