This Queer Immigration Activist Is Pushing The Boundaries Of Brown LGBTQ Art
Julio Salgado is a Mexican artist who does not hold back in his art. The California-based artist has been making politically charged and relevant AF pieces over the past year and things are just getting started. mitú spoke with Salgado to learn a little bit more about the man behind the art.
You may recognize Salgado’s viral art series featuring popular sitcoms reimagined with people of color as lead characters.Julio Salgado / Facebook
“When the POC TV Show Takeover series took off online and folks were sharing the images, I remember reading comments that were accusing me of being anti-white or stealing white culture,” Salgado told mitú. “Hilarious! For the record, these series were not meant to put down these shows. On the contrary, I loved these sitcoms. I grew up with these sitcoms. I learned English with these sitcoms! It’s about the need to create more shows and movies that depict our stories not just in front of the camera but behind the camera.”
I-Con-Ic.Julio Salgado / Facebook
“Why were people so obsessed with a show like “Friends,” which is basically a show about six white people that hung out at a coffeeshop,” Salgado asks. “It was because they had great writers behind these characters who made them humane. We need more of that with people of color character. Thank God for Issa Rae and Shonda Rhimes!”
Salgado first started making art when he was a kid and his biggest inspiration is Frida Khalo.
“When I moved to California from Ensenada, Mexico, I was put in this 7th grade class where most of the kids that looked like me spoke mostly in English. I was 12 years old, about to be a teenager and so not wanting to live in this country,” Salgado told mitú. “I felt like it wasn’t my home. But it was in the 7th grade where I was introduced to Frida Kahlo. Her raw and emotional work sparked something inside of me. As the years went by and art teachers kept encouraging me to take the art route, I just knew I wanted to do art for the rest of my life.”
And as his experience with art has grown, so has his voice, along with his no-f*cks given attitude.
“I think it’s important for artists, or anyone really, to continue to grow,” Salgado told mitú about what he wants people to take from his art. “But I guess the main message is for people to own their narratives and not let anyone speak for you.” #PREACH
Salgado first became interested in politics as a journalism student at Long Beach City College. He made cartoons for the student newspaper.
“While I was at the student newspaper [at Long Beach City College], I was also creating editorial cartoons and eventually transferred to California State University, Long Beach and continued to hone my political cartooning skills,” Salgado told mitú. “Around this time, there weren’t many depictions in the media of who we were as undocumented students. The snippets you would see in the media were very dehumanizing of the migrant experience.”
“I started making artwork and writing about being undocumented and things that were affecting our communities,” Salgado said.
Salgado was moved by other undocumented activists at the time and wanted to make sure that he could help to document their fight.
Not only is Salgado tackling the political issues facing the undocumented community, he is also tackling the LGBTQ issues within the undocumented community.
Salgado says that his biggest inspiration of incorporating the queer identity to his art was from fellow queer migrant activists.
“As we know from many movements, when you’re queer you’re always told to leave the ‘gay agenda’ behind and focus on the big picture,” Salgado told mitú. “In the migrant rights movement for many years, that big picture meant immigration reform.”
By creating queer migrant art, Salgado joined several migrant activists pushing against the homophobia within the migrant rights world.
“A lot of key undocumented and formally undocumented organizers like Yahaira Carrillo, Prerna Lal, Sonia Guinansaca, Kemi Bello, Javier Hernandez and many more pushed against the real homophobia and heteronormativity that lurked in migrant rights organizing and that really informed the queerness in my political art,” Salgado continued. “Of course, my own personal queer experiences have been part of my art as well.”
Salgado’s undocuqueer lens has helped him to create some incredibly relevant art in 2016 from the ridiculousness being spewed this presidential election…
…to the tragic Orlando Pulse Nightclub shooting that targeted LGBTQ people of color.
“The morning after the horrible tragedy in Orlando earlier this year, I got a call from my mother who pretty much told me to stop going to gay clubs,” Salgado told mitú. “I can’t imagine being the mother or the father of a gay son or daughter and hearing what was happening. This tragedy only reminded me of the reality that our communities go through as queer people of color.”
Since the Orlando shooting, Salgado has created a new art series dedicated to queer trans people-of-color (QTPOC) love.
“I decided to keep going to gay clubs and bars to take pictures of the smiling queer and trans people of color while they were alive and make these illustrations,” Salgado told mitú about how he responded after the Orlando shooting. “I wanted to capture the moments when we as a community celebrate ourselves and hug each other and are there for each other.”
As for the presidential election, well, Salgado thinks the whole thing, no matter who wins, is just going to be a wash.
“All I know is that after this circus of an election is over, we will still have detention centers, prisons, racism, etc,” Salgado told mitú. “The job of the artist is to portray that in the art. To remind folks that our bodies will continue to suffer after we elect a rich white person into office.”
And he just hopes that people of color realize that when election is over, it doesn’t mean there’s no more work to do.
“Being in the migrant rights movement for so many years has made me very, very skeptical of any politician regardless of party affiliation,” Salgado said. “So whether you decide to exercise your right to vote or stay at home, the realities that we face as communities of color will still be there after this election.”
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