From Panamá to Standing Rock: Dogs, Queerness, Colonialism

This is nothing new. This is nothing extraordinary. This is how it has always been.

On September 2, 2016 a privately contracted paramilitary security force released several dogs on a group of Native protesters at the Standing Rock camp in North Dakota.

 

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Tomas Alejo

One fine day in 1530, a Spanish colonial security force released several dogs on a group of Native protesters on the Isthmus of Panamá.

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Theodor De Bry, Los perros de Balboa contra los indígenas sodomitas, 1592

This is history repeating.

But now, instead of devouring Indians for sodomy–as in 1530–it is for oil. What was once called the “pecado nefando,” the nefarious sin, voluptuousness, sexual aberration, queerness, is now the sin of sovereignty.

Today, rather than the management of bodies it is the management of land. Sexuality replaced by extractivist ecology.

This is nothing new. This is colonialism.

Colonial management of desire, of bodies, of land, of futures, of time, of knowledge.

The management of these bodies, from the 16th century to today, from Panamá to Standing Rock, is the consequence, the mandate, the undeniable goal of colonial systems.

And yet, we are still here. And yet, we still resist. We organize, we speak out, we write, we listen, we share, we love. This is also nothing new. And it will continue. And we will be there.

#nodapl

Our Queer Breath

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I see myself reflected in the window, with those fluorescent letters in red. I am kissing my boyfriend. His skin, his scent, remind me of what I came for, of what I’m here for. That desire. And that desire is a revolutionary act. That search. That breath.

Our queer breath is a revolutionary act. To breathe as a fugitive, delinquent body, as a body that exists in spite of this violence.

I had woken up a bit late and I didn’t realize it until later. Until I opened Facebook. I didn’t think I would cry. And I didn’t, until I saw a video of a mother receiving text messages from her son, her son who had been kidnapped in the bathroom at Pulse. Her son who did not make it out alive.

I saw the news that 49 people had been killed in Orlando, Florida. In a gay bar. Latino Night.

Latino Night. Bodies entangled. Sweat. Brown bodies, Black bodies. Dance. Bodies dancing lost in the night.

I went to Stonewall because places have their history, their memory. I thought that that place would give me something of that fight, that defiance. I thought that those copper bricks, that darkness, that dirty floor, would give me something. Would make me feel something that I had lost.

Stonewall. That place which, after a police raid in 1969, inspired a series of violent, explosive protests. Travestis, Negras, drag queens, Puerto Ricans, fags, butch-dykes. The beginning of the gay liberation movement in the United States. A place where our dissident bodies started to feel free.

Latino night. When you exist as a brown body, when you love, survive, as a brown body, when your body is always subject to the various modes of violence that threaten your very existence. When you are a body that should never have existed. That was never meant to survive. To thrive. What does it matter if you can dance? If you have that space to dance? What value can that dance floor have on Latino Night?

Or, what happens when dancing is the only thing that makes you human? What happens when your body only becomes a body when it dances, when it articulates, when it shimmies, when it sweats, when it sways? Is that why a gay bar matters? Latino Night? When that space allows you to be, to move, to breathe, to become.

What do those Latinx bodies dancing at Pulse on its Latino Night say? What air, what space, what environment do they change with their black-brown bodies?

What changes when you move the air with those beautiful brown legs? What arabesques, what wake do you leave?

That Sunday at the Stonewall a spontaneous vigil after the massacre at Pulse. Around two hundred people gathered on Christopher Street. It was strange. Anti-terror police next to those brown bodies trickling in after the Puerto Rican Pride Parade. A historic irony. The police ‘protect us’ against the terrorism that they themselves created. A multitude. Anti-islamaphobia signs. Signs in favor of gun control. Outside the bar activists and comrades spoke about resistance. About love. We echoed their calls to not lose ourselves. To not fall into the facile categorization of the massacre as simple ‘terrorism’. Members of Black Lives Matter. The critique cannot be tautological.

We cannot stop dancing. We cannot stop sweating, swishing, desiring. We cannot stop insisting on the complexity of this issue, insisting on a critique of misogyny, racism, homophobia, islamophobia, toxic masculinity, in constant crisis.

Journalists who asked the typical: How do you feel? Do you feel safe? Why did you come to Stonewall?

Why go to Stonewall? To be with those bodies, bodies that we love, that we desire, that move us, that we caress, that we yearn for. Bodies given in to the night. Bodies that will not return. Bodies that come undone. Bodies that break. Bodies whose sweat, whose glimmer, we will never inhale again. Bodies that matter. Bodies whose matter, whose becoming, will save us from oblivion.

To breathe that desire, that breath, that intransigence that the queer body stages with its terrible incommensurability. To see, feel, touch, kiss, dance.

(This essay was originally published in Revista Anfibia as “Travestis, Negras, Boricuas, Maricas” and will be reprinted in English in QED).

Orlando, NYC

In the wake of the devastating attack in Orlando, the persistence of homophobia, Islamophobia, misogyny, transphobia, structural racism. It seems incomprehensible. It seems devastatingly impossible to think. To think through and propose alternatives to this hate.

I don’t know. But I tried to think through in this piece, in Spanish, published in Revista Anfibia today. But I also want to note a couple articles in which I was quoted:

  1. The New York Times detailed some of the feelings at stake.
  2. The AP on the complexity of the current debate.
  3. The Tampa Bay Times on not losing sight of context.

IN ENGLISH

Vincent Cervantes for Religion Dispatches, on the theological dimensions.

And Richard Kim for The Nation, on why we can’t stop the music.

John P. Sundholm on why praying is not and has never been enough.

Alexander Chee for The Nation, an excellent reflection on the Courage of Being Queer.

Yezmin Villarreal on why Existing is Resisting.

Alan Paez Lopez on why we are not all Orlando. (which I wholeheartedly agree with).

Charlie Vázquez on Puerto Rican resilience and memory.

Tony Varona for HuffPo, on not erasing the Latino histories and bodies.

Another collection of 10 articles on #Orlando #PulseOrlando from the American Friends Service Committee.

NPR on the Latino voices.

Salvador Vidal-Ortiz for Feminist Reflections, on rethinking Orlando as América.

Ramón Rivera-Servera for The Atlantic, on the space of the queer Latino dance club.

Juana María Rodríguez for NBC, on embracing queer latinidad.

J. Jack Halberstam for Bully Bloggers, on who are ‘we’ after Orlando.

Eng-Beng Lim for Bully Bloggers, on the #OrlandoSyllabus.

José Quiroga for Bully Bloggers, on the nostalgia, complexity, and colonialism of Orlando.

Christopher Soto on Literary Hub, a poem on self and the unanswerable.

IN SPANISH/EN CASTELLANO

A fierce ally and colleague, Juliana Martínez on why the shooter is not a monster.

Hugo Córdova Quero for Pulse, on intersections and violence.

Liliana Viola for Página/12, on hate and reactions.

Santiago Castellanos for El Comercio, an interview on difference.

Larry La Fountain-Stokes for 80 grados, on the weight of violence.

Conversaciones del Cono Sur (Dossier)

Just a quick note to announce that the Dossier, Amor, sexualidad y género: Políticas del Cono Sur, which I edited with Fernando A. Blanco, has been published in the online journal of the Southern Cone Studies Section of LASA, Conversaciones del Cono Sur. 

It includes 4 essays that are condensed versions of papers presented at the 2014 LASA Congress in Chicago, and an introduction by the editors.

https://conosurconversaciones.wordpress.com/

Upcoming: All the Conferencing!

A quick plug for upcoming events:

  1. The Queer/Cuir Americas Working Group, of which I’m a member, will hold a symposium at Fordham University (Lincoln Center) on Wednesday, May 25th.
  2. The LASA Sexualities Studies Section will host a Pre-Conference at Stony Brook University-Manhattan, on Thursday, May 26th.
  3. The Latin American Studies Asociation (LASA) Annual Conference will be held in Midtown Manhattan from Friday-Monday. I’ll be presenting new work on Sunday along with some really awesome people.

Ecuador Earthquake

I have been involved in community-based arts programs in Bahía de Caráquez for six years now. Bahía de Caráquez, its community, its family, was devastated by the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that hit last Saturday. More than 400 people in Ecuador have died, tens of thousands have lost their homes. The community still has no electricity and no water. Please consider supporting our efforts to collect financial and material donations for those families, our family.

Read more here.

Or at the video below: