Documenting Queer Latinx in LA

LGBT and Mujeres Initiative
In 2007, the UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center (CSRC) launched an initiative to increase its LGBT and women’s collections. The initiative, which remains active today, has a four-fold mission: to educate women and LGBT communities about the importance of documenting and preserving Latina and Latino history; to educate Latina and Latino communities about the importance of women’s stories and LGBT history within their archival efforts; to provide women and LGBT Latinas and Latinos with archival materials that can function as a source of pride, inspiration, and new scholarship; and to educate “mainstream” archival institutions about the need for women’s and LGBT archival holdings as part of culturally sensitive collecting and archival practices. This online exhibit illustrates the CSRC's continuing efforts to acquire and create collections de la jotería, a.k.a. Latinx LGBTQIA+ (an umbrella term used to intentionally include and give visibility to the queer, intersex and a-sexual communities, along with those not included in the acronym).
Maricón Collective Records
Maricón Collective was formed in 2014 as a queer Chicano/Latino DJ and artist collective “with the hope to bring Queer POC people together through dance and celebration” (mission statement). Re-appropriating the negative connotation of the term "maricón," their goal was to create visibility for a new generation of queer Chicana/os and Latina/os in the Los Angeles area. In addition to developing a cult following via social media and hosting various fundraising community events, the collective also collaborated with Chicana/o visual artists such as Alice Bag, Joey Terrill, and Shizu Saldamando. The collective is no longer active. This collection includes ephemera and prints from the artists’ first year together as Maricón Collective. 
VIVA Records
VIVA was a Los Angeles-based non-profit arts agency founded in 1987 in the Silver Lake community. Its purpose was to promote the creative and artistic talent of LGBTQ Latina and Latino artists and their culture. VIVA was formally designed to create a coalition that would advocate against these communities' lack of representation in the L.A. art scene. The organization was formed by a group of lesbian Latinas and gay Latino creative artists, including Roland Palencia, Mike Moreno, Luis Alfaro, Marcus Kuiland-Nazario, and Aleida Rodriguez. VIVA worked closely with other gay and lesbian organizations, using arts-based projects to address cultural and sociopolitical issues that were of concern to its community.  Its exhibitions, theatrical productions, writers’ workshops, educational outreach programs, and collaborative projects with programs such as the Minority AIDS Project brought national as well as area recognition to VIVA and its members. Tongues took over VIVA in 2000; although Tongues used VIVA's 501(c)3 and identified itself as a VIVA project, VIVA had essentially ended. This collection primarily consists of papers related to the administration, events, exhibitions, performances, projects, outreach, art and publications of VIVA. The collection also includes photographs, negatives, transparencies, artwork, administrative papers, t-shirts, catalogs and printed materials. ----------For more information, see Robb Hernandez, "VIVA Records, 1970-2000" (2013), volume 7 in the CSRC Chicano Archives series. (See credits for link.)----------
Cyclona: The Fire of Life Collection
As a child, Robert Legorreta, also known as Cyclona, recalls seeing Elvis's television debut. This whetted his youthful appetite for provocative entertainment. He also remembers the hit novelty song "The Monster Mash," which transformed Halloween from an innocent candy and costume holiday for children into a subversive teenage rite of passage. Today he is known as  a performance artist and provocateur. In the guise of a Pagliacci-like clown, he laces his performances with subliminal and overt messages about race, gender, and identity. Born in 1952 in El Paso, Texas, his family soon moved to East Los Angeles. He attended Garfield High School with fellow future artists Gronk and Mundo Meza. By the late 1960s Legorreta had become interested in what he felt was an aesthetic of hippie androgyny. He and Mundo began to provoke some of the residents of East Los Angeles by parading down Whittier Boulevard in daring drag costumes. These provocations came to the attention of artist Gronk, then a playwright, who had written the play "Caca-roaches Have No Friends," which featured a part calling for a transvestite named "Cyclona." Legorreta became Cyclona, improvising the part, imbuing it with life, and, conversely, imbuing Legorreta with a persona he would identify with since that time. Cyclona describes himself as a "live art" artist, bringing art to life. Although his performances can be interpreted as a cross-dresser's show, Cyclona does not identify as a transvestite and does not dress as a woman. Draping himself in fabrics and painting himself with exaggerated makeup, the artist challenges the audience to question their perceptions of gender representation and stereotypes. As Cyclona says: "I am perception, perceive me as you will." This collection of papers, photos, LP records, and three-dimensional objects represents the personal collection of the performance artist. Items of special interest include Cyclona's scrapbook and LP record and artifact collection depicting representations of Latinos. ----------For more information, see Robb Hernandez, "The Fire of Life: The Robert Legorreta-Cyclona Collection" (2009), volume 2 the CSRC Chicano Archives series. (See credits for link.)----------
Gronk Papers
Born in Los Angeles in 1954, Gronk began his artistic career at a young age by organizing performance pieces with a group of collaborators that included Robert Legorreta ("Cyclona") and Mundo Meza. In the early 1970s, he co-founded the art collective Asco, along with Harry Gamboa Jr., Willie Herrón, and Patssi Valdez. Through their public guerilla art interventions and conceptual practices like "No Movies," the group constituted a unique tendency within the Chicano art movement while it also actively engaged prevalent avant-garde movements. During his tenure with Asco, Gronk developed his career as an individual artist working in a diverse range of media: murals, canvas painting, drawing, live performance, mail art, printmaking and photography. By 1985, Gronk had secured representation with the Daniel Saxon Gallery and embarked upon a successful career as an exhibiting artist. He quickly became one of the most prominent Chicano painters in the United States, and was featured in many of the major exhibitions featuring Latino and/or Hispanic art over the course of the next two decades. Throughout his career, however, Gronk has remained a uniquely multi-faceted artist, and has recently completed large-scale installation paintings, critically acclaimed set designs for theater and opera productions, and a digital animation short. The Gronk Papers include a diverse range of materials that span the entirety of Gronk's career, from approximately 1969 to 2007. These include materials related to his work with ASCO, his collaborative works and correspondence with artist Jerry Dreva, documentation of the artist's exhibitions, photographic materials (slides, transparencies and prints), thousands of original drawings and watercolors (both loose and in sketchbooks), materials related to his production designs for theater, correspondence and mail art, press clippings and artwork collected by the artist. ----------For more information, see Max Benavidez, "A Ver: Gronk" (2007),  volume 1 in the CSRC A Ver series. (See credits for link.)----------
Queer Nation Records
Queer Nation was a lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) grassroots local organization first established in March 1990 in New York and then proliferated into many other chapters across the country, including Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Houston. The organization, which was formed by former members of ACT UP, a non-profit organization that fought HIV/AIDS discrimination, was well-known for its confrontational actions and public protests. Queer Nation emerged because of the need to visibly denounce and counteract violence against LGBT people and stereotypical portrayals of them in the media. Prior to the 1990s the word "queer" was considered a pejorative term; however, the group effectively re-appropriated the term and adopted it as a word of action. This collection encompasses correspondence, budgets, propaganda materials, press contact information, membership lists, newsletters, and photographs from 1982 through 1995.
Gil Cuadros Collection
Born in Los Angeles, California in 1962, Gil Cuadros was a gay Latino poet, essayist, and ceramist predominantly known for his book of short stories and poems entitled City of God, originally published November 1994. This work, along with a few others, gives visibility to homosexuality and AIDS within the Chicano community in L.A. This collection consists of newspaper articles, books, journals, and a scrapbook pertaining to the work of Gil Cuadros from 1990 to 1993.
Laura Aguilar Collection
Laura Aguilar was born in 1959 in San Gabriel, California, and is a photographer whose works are mostly portraits. Aguilar attended the photography program at East Los Angeles Community College and continued her studies as part of The Friends of Photography Workshop and Santa Fe Photographic Workshop. Professor Chon Noriega of UCLA's Department of Film and Television writes that Aguilar's work documents "social groups and identities that remain invisible in mainstream culture: Latina lesbians, black couples, obese people, et al." She cooperates with her subjects so that "her work is not about power differentials between photographer and subject as is often, if implicitly, the case with ... the social documentary tradition." An autobiographical element is also apparent in Aguilar's work. Art critic Diana Emery Hulick noted that "Aguilar is large, lesbian, and Chicana, acutely aware of her separateness, yet comfortable enough with herself to present us with a personal vision that is both intimate and authoritative." This collection consists mainly of printed material, photos, and photocopied journal articles. In fall 2017, the CSRC Press will publish the exhibition catalog "Laura Aguilar: Show and Tell" in conjunction with a retrospective of Aguilar's work on view at the Vincent Price Art Museum at Aguilar's former site of study, now called East Los Angeles College. The CSRC was the main lender of artworks to this exhibition.
Yolanda Retter -Vargas Papers
Yolanda Retter-Vargas was a lesbian, scholar, archivist, librarian, and activist born to a Peruvian mother and North American father. She was born in Connecticut on December, 4, 1947 but spent much of her childhood in El Salvador before moving to California to attend college. She was a major force in the early Los Angeles lesbian movement as an advocate for lesbians of color. In the early 1970s, she was among the lesbians who formed radical civil rights organizations. She was a founding member of "Lesbianas LatinaAmericas" in 1974 and Lesbianas Latinas (later Lesbianas Unidas) in 1980. During her life, she co-edited and was a strong contributor to many significant books on lesbian/gay culture and history, remained exclusively committed to working on issues about women of color, and was a much sought after librarian, archivist, and editor.  From 2003 until the time of her death in 2007, she served as the head librarian and archivist at the UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center. Her collection is largely composed of her research and personal papers, but also includes personal papers.
Elena Popp Papers
Elena I. Popp is a longtime activist and attorney dedicated to social justice. She was born in Mexico circa 1959 and in 1968 immigrated to Los Angeles with her mother and two younger siblings. Elena became a community activist as a young girl when a teacher brought a young United Farm Workers organizer into her classroom to talk about the dangerous conditions faced by laborers in the fields. Elena enlisted in the farm workers' movement that day. In her adult life, she continues her work on behalf of immigrants, women, children, those that live with disabling conditions, housing/tenants rights, the Peace movement, domestic violence, outreach to the homeless, slum abatement, and civil rights. This collection documents her life as an activist, lawyer/advocate, and candidate for public office.
Tatiana de la Tierra Papers
Born in 1961 in Villavicencio, Colombia, Tatiana de la Tierra immigrated with her family to the United States in 1969 and settled in Miami, Florida. Having obtained graduate degrees in creative writing and library science, she was an early pioneer of self-published 'zines that centered on issues of Latina lesbians, as well as a bi-cultural writer whose work focused on identity, sexuality, and South American memory and reality. She was a founder, editor, and contributor to the Latina lesbian publications Esto No Tiene Nombre (1991-1994), Conmoción (1995-1996), and La Telaraña (website), and author of For the Hard Ones: A Lesbian Phenomenology / Para las Duras: Una Fenomenología Lesbiana (2002), and the chapbooks Porcupine Love and Other Tales from My Papaya (2005) and Píntame Una Mujer Peligrosa (2005). She passed away in Long Beach, California, in July 2012. This collection contains her personal papers, including correspondence, manuscripts, photographs, serials, ephemera, and audio materials as well as subject files and records related to her professional career as a writer, editor, and librarian.
Ramiro Gomez Digital Image Collection
Ramiro Gomez Jr. was born in San Bernardino, California, in 1986 to undocumented Mexican immigrant parents. He attended the California Institute for the Arts for a short period before leaving to work as a live-in nanny with a family in West Hollywood. This experience came to predominantly inform his art practice. Using modest materials, he portrays and makes visible Latino domestic workers employed in affluent Los Angeles neighborhoods. In 2013, Gomez had his first solo exhibition at the UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center.The Ramiro Gomez Collection of Visual Works at the CSRC Library includes selections from Gomez’s Happy Hills series of mixed-media works, as well as documentary photographs of his installations.
"[T]his artist seemed to be allowing us, indeed forcing us, to notice the very people who make that look, the look of L.A., possible, rendering visible a whole world of people, our fellow humans, who we ordinarily prefer not to see." --Lawrence Weschler, "Domestic Scenes: The Art of Ramiro Gomez," p. 6. (See credits.)
David Damian Figueroa Papers
David Damian Figueroa was born in 1962 in Buckeye, Arizona. As a child and through his adolescence, he held various jobs including fieldwork, cleaning houses, dishwashing, and bussing tables, which later informed his social justice work. The David Damian Figueroa Papers document his years of philanthropy and advocacy pertaining to civil rights and public policy. He has contributed to these efforts in various capacities working at the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), the Los Angeles Homeless Service Authority, AARP California, and numerous other civic entities as well as several non-profit organizations and foundations, including but not limited to the Dolores Huerta Foundation, the Cesar E. Chavez Foundation, and Eva's Heroes. A gifted singer, Figueroa has also served as a philanthropic advisor to numerous Latinos in the arts. This collection reflects his years of community activism benefiting Latinos, LGBT individuals, seniors, people with disabilities, women, and children. The collection includes photographs, correspondence, ephemera, books, serials, and audio and visual materials, as well as several art pieces, including lithographs.
Dan Guerrero Research Collection
Dan Guerrero began his entertainment career in New York where he was a successful theatrical agent with clients in the original casts of countless Broadway musicals. He returned home to Los Angeles to become a casting director for stage and television programming in English and Spanish before turning his talents to, writing, producing, and directing. The Dan Guerrero Research Collection includes ephemera, press kits, clippings, photographs, and audio visual materials documenting his career as a Chicano activist, producer, and performance artist. Also included are materials reflecting the life and career of his father, Lalo Guerrero, "the father of Chicano music," and personal friend and artist Carlos Almaraz. There are also items related to Guerrero's one-man show "Gaytino! Made in America." This collection complements the existing archival collection housed at the University of California, Santa Barbara Department of Special Collections California Ethnic and Multicultural Archives (CEMA).
Going Forward
A Note from the Archivist: I engage with students every day. I show them how to handle and use the archives, and use them for research. Some of them love it. Others at least learn something new. But something else happens when I show Latino students our collections at the CSRC: I see first-hand the importance of representation. For many, it’s the first time they have access to their own history and their community’s history. And this is never more evident than when students relate to the CSRC’s LGBT and Mujeres collections. A whole new world opens up to them, and they want more--to know more and see more. By continuing to develop these collections and collaborating with the UCLA LGBT program to integrate archival research into lesson plans, I am proud and privileged to continue the work my predecessor Yolanda Retter-Vargas started ten years ago, to continue "en la lucha" and make the invisible visible. Everyone who identifies as Chicano, Chicana, or Chicanx is part of the story and all of their experiences are the Chicano experience. Viva la joteria! Viva el pueblo. --Xaviera Flores, CSRC Librarian and Archivist
Credits: Story

Xaviera Flores, CSRC Librarian/Archivist
Naiela Santana, 2017 CSRC Getty MUIP Intern

Rebecca Epstein, CSRC Communications and Academic Programs Officer

Books distributed by University of Minnesota Press:

by Max Benavidez, foreword by Chon A. Noriega
Los Angeles: UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center Press, 2007
prices may vary

Books distributed by University of Washington Press:

The Fire of Life: The Robert Legorreta-Cyclona Collection.
by Robb Hernández
Los Angeles: UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center Press, 2009
prices may vary

VIVA Records, 1970 - 2000: Lesbian and Gay Latino Artists of Los Angeles.
by Robb Hernández
Los Angeles, CA: UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center Press, 2013
prices may vary

- Maricon Collective
- VIVA Archives
- Cyclona
- Queer Nation
- Gil Cuadros
- Laura Aguilar
- Elena Popp
- Yolanda Retter-Vargas
- Tatiana de La Tierra
- Ramiro Gomez Jr.
- David Damian Figueroa
- Dan Guerrero

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.