Boyle Heights, a neighborhood just east of downtown Los Angeles, is the epicenter of a gentrification battle that shows no signs of letting down. For years, the tight-knit community has fought tooth and nail against developers who they believe are only interested in installing high-priced residences and businesses in the area, which would lead to higher rents and a more expensive cost of living, resulting in the displacement of many people who live currently there. Activists have protested against the development of luxury apartments, a trendy coffee shop and retail/medical buildings near Mariachi Plaza.
Some activists have also taken a hard-line stance against art galleries for laying the groundwork for gentrification. One of the galleries visited by protestors was Self-Help Graphics, a Latino-founded art gallery that has served the community since the ‘70s. The decision to protest Self-Help Graphics didn’t make sense to Guadalupe Rosales, the Boyle Heights artist behind the popular Veterans and Rucas Instagram. A new mini-doc, “The Town I Live In,” captures Rosales’ struggle with being an artist who supports the fight against gentrification but also has ties to artists and galleries that were the target of activists. “This issue — it’s not just black and white. And I don’t know what I’m supposed to do as an artist from Boyle Heights,” says Rosales.
Rosales, who co-directed the film with Matt Walsh, doesn’t proclaim to have any answers. Instead, she wonders if there are spaces where Latino artists and their work can reside while battling gentrification is the priority in her neighborhood. Rosales: “I want to be able to make art in my neighborhood, and not [be] seen as someone who is enabling gentrification.”
Happy National Coming Out Day! Coming out to your family and friends can be hard to do, especially in a Latino household. Whether it’s dealing with the machismo culture or religious ideals that shun your sexual orientation, coming out can mean tearing your family apart. It’s important to know that you should only come out when you feel ready and will be safe in doing so. The good news is that Americans, as a society, have become more accepting of LGBTQI+ people in general, according to a Harris Poll/GLAAD poll. In honor of National Coming Out Day, we’re celebrating Latinx who have shared their own coming out stories.
Salice Rose hid her sexual orientation because her family told her it was not right.
Rose is openly talking about how she realized she was attracted to other women at a young age. In 8th grade, she had a crush on a female classmate. When she mentioned it to a family member, they quickly shut her down, telling her that it was wrong and that she shouldn’t ever think that way. So, like a lot of people in the closet, she tried dating members of the opposite sex but was not comfortable or happy.
“The thought of me coming out never crossed my mind. I know that sounds crazy,” Rose says. “Because in high school I was always getting kicked out of schools…I was going to military schools and all this stuff so I was just like, ‘Okay. Maybe I just don’t have time for a boyfriend right now. Maybe I just don’t want it. Cool.'”
It was while she was in military school that she realized that she’s gay. That made her finally feel at peace. Years later, Rose moved to San Diego and started to live as her honest self as an out lesbian woman. She eventually called her mom to let her in on the secret she had been hiding for so long.
“I was like, ‘Mom. I don’t know how you’re going to react but I like girls, I don’t like guys. If you don’t accept me for me than that’s fine. I’m still going to be me. But if you do, great. Thank you so much,'” she recalls. “My mom was actually very, very easygoing about it. She’s always been very supportive of me. She’s my hero.”
Manny “MUA” Gutierrez shared his experience of coming out while in a religious household.
Gutierrez grew up in a Mormon household, with his family was deeply involved with the Church of Latter-Day Saints. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the LDS church and its teachings, their website says there is nothing wrong with being attracted to someone of the same sex, but marriage is out of the question, as is acting on your desires. Basically, you can be gay but you can never act on it.
“I was terrified to death about the concept of me liking a boy,” Gutierrez admits. “I knew I couldn’t do it because it was a no-no for my family and it was a no-no for the church. So I was like, ‘There’s no way in hell that I’m going to like boys.’ Basically, every single night I would pray to please not like boys because that was just what I was doing. I know it sounds kind of sad but that’s what I was doing.”
Gutierrez says his first experience with talking to another LGBTQ boy was through MySpace. As a 16-year-old, Gutierrez met a boy named “T.” \While he thought T was attractive, he tried to ignore those feelings because he wasn’t ready to admit it. But, like most Latinos, his parents were not big on the whole privacy thing. One day they decided to look through his laptop to see what Gutierrez was up to. His parents read all the messages he had exchanged with “T.” Soon after, Gutierrez agreed to go to counseling to “work through” his feelings and attraction to men. However, that didn’t work and after six months, he had to tell his parents the truth.
“My mom and my dad sat me down and they were like, ‘What’s going on with you? What’s going on in your head? Why aren’t you acting like your normal happy self?’ Because I was a happy kid,” Gutierrez says. “Again, I break down and tell them that the counseling isn’t working. I’m not changing. Nothing this person is telling me is working at all. I’m not going to not be gay. I still like boys. I still like boys. I can’t help it. So, my parents, being the loving parents that they are, tell me, ‘So, let’s take a pause on this counseling and let’s just see how things go. We want you to be happy.'”
Recently the beloved Latina singer Joy, of pop duo Jesse & Joy, penned a heartfelt letter that announced she was in a loving relationship and that she and her wife were expecting a child.
The Mexican singer and songwriter who is also Grammy and Latin Grammy winner spoke of the power of love and how it has affected her. She also detailed the fear she experienced when she fell in love with her partner, a woman, seven years ago but how when she came to accept her feelings her world was opened up to all kinds of possibilities including a baby!
“Since I was young, I have seen sexual preferences beyond black and white: two people loving each other with consent for me is love, regardless of gender,” she wrote in both English and Spanish. “And even though I never thought that the love of my life would be a woman, 7 years ago, we met and love took us both by surprise. At first, it was difficult for the two of us to accept that we had reached our destination. But leaving aside the fear and who/what people would say, I opened my heart to embrace my happiness. Today, my wife and I are expecting our first baby, a beautiful and healthy baby girl.”