Hundreds gather outside Galeria de la Raza in the Mission to show strength, resilience of LGBT and Latino communities.
By Marke B.
JULY 1, 2015 — “As a queer Latino man living in the Mission, this act of violence affects me personally. It cuts to the core of my identity,” Supervisor David Campos remarked before a crowd of hundreds gathered outside Galeria de la Raza for a unity rally after a Chicano LGBT mural had been burned by suspects still at large. The mural, installed by the Los Angeles Maricon Collective, showed two same-sex couples and a trans man in a cholo cultural context.
Beneath the blackened, torched-away surface, you could glimpse evidence of two previous spray-paint defacements. Someone had placed flowers and candles at the mural’s base.
“Our natural instinct in these situations is for retribution,” Campos continued. “But if anything, the recent Supreme Court decision and the outpouring of support around the country have taught us that love always wins, and we are on the side of what’s right. Love is supreme. We must counter this act of of violence against an entire community with love.
“This community is hurting,” Campos continued, referring to the Mission-based Latino community. “But an incredible spirit of resilience is growing within us. We’ve seen in the past two months the power of the people to march on City Hall and speak with one voice about what is happening to our neighborhood. This is no time to let these kinds of acts deter us from our larger goal of unity and strength.”
“I’m still shaking,” Ani Rivera, the Galeria’s Executive Director, told the crowd. “This was a direct attack on us and our neighbors.
“The person who did this thinks this sends a message that queer Chicanos don’t exist here. Well, I’m here to tell you we have always existed, and we will continue to exist in the Mission and everywhere!
“This act only points to the fact that more dialogue within the community is required,” Rivera said. More than ever we must be united, we must exercise patience, and we must truly listen and respond to each other to reach a place of peace and reconciliation. ”
“This was a mean, childish, upsetting act,” former state senator and Mission schoolteacher Tom Ammiano added. “But we must not enable hatred by adding more hatred. We must embrace those who did this, in order to educate them. Look what happened in South Carolina. The families of those killed lined up to forgive the killer.
“Forgiveness doesn’t mean no consequences. It doesn’t mean no justice will be done here. But we must echo the call for restorative justice that doesn’t just lead to punishment, but to healing and moving forward stronger than ever as a community.”
Robert Hernandez of Our Mission: No Eviction introduced his young soon Tito as someone who is growing up in the neighborhood and learning about art from Galeria de la Raza and people like its co-founder, René Yañez, a Mission fixture and artist who himself is facing eviction.
“When I was growing up in this barrio, we loved everybody we grew up next to, including the queer community. There was no difference. Everything we did in the Mission was ‘con amor,’ with love, ‘con puro amor.’
“Now, the Mission is a flashpoint for anger and frustration, and we must ensure that the anger — of 10,000 people in the city, of 8,000 latino families being displaced in the past decade — does not tear us apart.
“We must remain united against displacement,” Hernandez told the cheering crowd. “We are going to pout a moratorium on luxury condos on the ballot and start to heal this community. What the supervisors failed to do, the people themselves will do. Viva La Misión!”
There were other rousing speakers: René Yañez spoke of the history of queer arts in the Mission, including Marga Gomez, Culture Clash, and Tom Ammiano himself, as a comedian at the Valencia Rose. He spoke of “liberating” the billboard on which the mural was displayed from its corporate owners when he helped start Galeria de la Raza in the 1970s.
Dr. Estele Garcia from Instituto Familiar de la Raza reminded the crowd that “we are not defined by acts of violence, but by how resilient we are in the face of adversity. We must find a balance and work toward peace.”
And young trans man activist Lucindo drew a powerful metaphor from the mural’s destruction: “When I first saw this mural, it was the first time I had seen a trans Latino man depicted publicly. I couldn’t believe the scars on his chest were like the scars on my own, from the surgery that helped me to finally be myself. Now, when I see the scars on this burned mural itself, I also recognize the scars on myself — scars of 25 years of fear, confusion, and hurt. Now, more than ever, we need fierce queer brown and black allies to bridge our communities and stand up for ourselves and our right to exist.”