By Eduardo Morales, Ph.D.
Introduced by Congressperson George E. Brown in June of 1968, the purpose of Latinx heritage month is to highlight, appreciate and celebrate the colorful cultures, history, and diversity of American Latinx community. Started as Latinx heritage week in 1968 under President Johnson, it was extended to a 30-day celebration by President Reagan and enacted into law on August 17, 1988, as Public Law 100-142. September 15 is the start date, since several Latinx American countries celebrate their independence including El Salvador, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Mexico, and Chile. October 12 is Día de la Raza. Contributions of Latinx Americans is vast in the LGBTQ+ movement. Let’s test your knowledge of Latinx LGBTQ+ contributions to the movement.
Who was the first openly gay candidate for public office in the U.S.? Hint, he was the founder of the Imperial Court system in 1965 in San Francisco. José Sarria also known as “Mama José” adopted the name Widow Norton in 1964 with reference to Joshua Norton who declared himself Emperor of the U.S. and Protector of Mexico in 1859. The Imperial Court System is the second largest LGBTQ+ organization in the world second to the Metropolitan Community Church (MCC). As a grassroot network of organizations their focus is to build community relationships for equality and raise funds for charitable causes.
What does “el 42” mean? In Mexico on the morning of November 18, 1901, the famous "Razzia de 41” took place which was private party of “homosexuals” with transvestites. The party was raided and attendees were arrested many who were "aristocrats”. There were 22 participants captured, their heads shaved, and jailed. The 19 in drag were sent to forced labor in the military. The 42nd person, "First Son in Law of the Nation" Ignacio de la Torre and Mier, son of Don Porfirio Diaz, managed to escape. This was the first time the Mexican press published such incident as “Los ’41 Maricones” November 20, 1901. In 2021 the film “El Baile de los 41” (Dance of 41) is a Mexican film and can be viewed on Netflix. Today the term “el 42” is used widely in Mexico in a derogatory manner to refer someone as “gay”.
What is Bom-Crioulo? This novel by Brazilian writer Adolfo Caminha first published in 1895 and was one of the first major literary work on LGBQ+ issues published in western literature and the first to have a Black person as its hero.
Who was considered the “Dean of Leather Columnist”? Gilbert “Marcus Hernandez (1932-2009) ran a column in the S.F. Bay Reporter (B.A.R) under the pen name “Mister Marcus”. His weekly columns of contests, goings-on, and gossip were a must read for the leather community leaders, titleholders, and newcomers for 38 years.
What was the Mariel boatlift? This was a mass exodus of Cubans from Cuba’s Mariel Harbor to the U.S. between April 15 and October 30, 1980. Various churches including the MCC in San Francisco developed sponsorship programs for the exiled LGBTQ+ Cubans.
Who is Catalina De Erauso (1592-1635)? Called La Monja Alférez (the “Nun Ensign”) and born in the coastal town of San Sebastián, Spain she introduced herself as Francisco de Loyola. She fled the convent dressed as a man, worked as an accountant and page in 1607, then fled to America as a "cabin boy". She became soldier of fortune in Perú, Bolivia, Chile, and Argentina. Revealed in confession that she was a woman and returned to Spain, where she was received by the Spanish King Philip IV who awarded her a lifelong military pension. Then she visited the Pope. His Holiness Pope Urban VIII was clearly amazed at her story and graciously gave her leave allowing her to wear men's clothes. She collaborated with Juan Pérez de Montalván in writing stories based on her adventures and returned to Mexico in 1630.
September is Suicide Awareness Month. Suicide rate for Latinx men is more than four times the rate compared to Latinx women with the suicide death rate being more than double than non-Latinx populations according to the Suicide Prevention Center. PTSD complicates the factors affecting suicide among Latinxs (https://www.sprc.org/scope/racial-ethnic-disparities/hispanic-populations). The 2020 Trevor Project reports Latinx LGBTQ youth were 30% more likely to report a suicide attempt in the past year. Explanation was that these youth had greater worries about themselves, and their family being detained or deported due to immigration policies. Those who worried a lot had double risk of attempting suicide compared to Latinx LGBTQ youth who never worried (https://www.thetrevorproject.org/research-briefs/latinx-lgbtq-youth-suicide-risk/).