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social sciences

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Latina/Latino Americans  
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Similarly, the Mexican gay liberation movements have influenced Latina/o Americans. As the activist and researcher Norma Mogrovejo has documented, there is a long tradition of Mexican lesbian and gay organizing linked to labor rights and anti-imperialist politics. Some of this work has been in dialogue with glbtq Latinos in the U.S. and Europe. Often glbtq cultural workers and activists have crossed social and political borders, exchanging ideas and strategies along the way.

The late gay Chicano sociologist Lionel Cantú, Jr. explored how both sexuality and economic need shape the border-crossing experience of gay Mexican men emigrating to the U.S. Specifically, Cantú analyzed how the phenomenon of Mexican gay men meeting foreign tourists in their country sometimes leads to contradictory experiences. Cantú noted that many gay Mexicans who use networks in the Mexican tourist industry as springboards to cross into the U.S. indulge in "el sueño fálico," or "phallic dream": they envision the U.S. as a sexual utopia in which they can be freely and openly gay; however, this dream of an idyllic gay life is usually shattered by the homophobia and racism that they encounter.

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Creative and Cultural Work

Cultural and political expression by glbtq Latina and Latino Americans have been most noteworthy in literary and creative works. Novels, poetry, plays, and essays by numerous women and men have reshaped notions of "Latinidad" or "Latinoness" and glbtq identities.

Two prolific and widely read Chicana lesbian authors have been especially influential. In 1981, the late Texan Chicana writer and theorist Gloria E. Anzaldúa (1942-2004) and the Southern California-born activist and playwright Cherríe L. Moraga (b. 1952) published the foundational collection, This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color. Now in its third edition, the anthology is an important political and theoretical text for lesbians of color, including Chicanas and Latinas.

Individually, Anzaldúa and Moraga each earned prominence as Chicana lesbian authors in the 1980s and 1990s. Central in their work has been the argument that sexuality and gender cannot be separated from other means of identification such as culture and religion, or from systems of control such as class exploitation, racial conquest, and patriarchal nationalist politics. Also important in their theorizing has been a challenge to religious institutions such as the Catholic Church and a re-appropriation of traditional indigenous spiritual beliefs.

Other glbtq Latina/o American writers who have been influential include Carla Trujillo, tatiana de la tierra, Jaime Cortez, Jaime Manrique, and Rafael Campo, as have been such performing artists as Marga Gómez, Monica Palacios, Alina Troyano ("Carmelita Tropicana"), and Luis Alfaro. John Rechy and Michael Nava are Latino Americans who have achieved prominence in the wider glbtq community, as well as within the Latina/o American community. While much homophobia, misunderstanding, and collective silence remains to be challenged, the contributions of glbtq Latina/o Americans over the past three decades have made a great impact in documenting the lives of this vibrant community.

Glbtq Latina and Latino Activists

Many glbtq Latinas and Latinos have played important roles in social and political organizing at least since the 1950s. They include, among many others, San Francisco's drag performer José Sarria in the 1950s and 1960s; New York's Sylvia (Ray) Rivera from the 1960s through the1990s; Philadelphia's Ada Bello in the 1960s and 1970s; and California's Jeanne Cordova from the 1970s through the 1990s.

In terms of activism around both sexuality and race/ethnicity, Latina and Latino Americans began their work in the early 1970s. In 1972, a New York-based gay men's group, self-described as homosexual men coming from several countries in Latin America, published a 63-page pamphlet in Spanish, AFUERA ("Out"). Highlighting the political dimension of coming out, the booklet addresses Third World liberation, Marxist thought, and patriarchy.

Also in 1972, New York's COHLA (Comité Homosexual Latinoamericano, or Latin American Homosexual Committee) attempted to march in the city's annual Puerto Rican Day Parade. While they were denied participation, they succeeded in bringing attention to gay lives and politics in the Puerto Rican and broader Latino community, and the struggles of people of color to the mainstream white gay movement. Also active in the early 1970s were the Gay Liberated Chicanos of Los Angeles.

In 1975, gay Chicanos and Latinos, along with a few Chicana and Latina lesbians, founded the Gay Latino Alliance (GALA) in the San Francisco Bay Area and San José regions. GALA combined political activism and socializing as it attempted to challenge the assumptions of gay and lesbian whites about Latinos and of Latina/o heterosexuals about lesbians and gay men in the city.

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