Latina and Latin American Lesbian Feminists Convene in Guatemala

group photo of folks in Guatemala

How often do Latina lesbian feminists in the U.S. get to convene with their sisters in Latin America?

Almost never. As a result, I jumped at the chance to participate in a recent North-South Activist Exchange between over 50 women from across the U.S., Canada, and Latin America. As a five-year board member of the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice, I was thrilled to be a part of an event that featured Astraea as a guest fund working in partnership with six women’s funds from throughout Latin America.

The goal of the event was to bring together Latin American and Latina lesbian activists to discuss ways to strengthen the feminist lesbian/queer movements in the global north and south. Held in Guatemala City, the convening was sponsored by ConMujeres, or the Consortium of Latin American Women’s Funds. This event was the Consortium’s first ever project to support lesbian and trans organizations and is part of a larger two-year initiative. It was one of many events held throughout a packed week of activist sessions in Guatemala.

For me, the trip was both personal and political. It was inspiring to meet activists from more than 60 organizations in 17 countries from Argentina to Mexico City, including the Caribbean and Mesoamerica. Some of the most revealing moments during the exchange happened during our small dialogue sessions. We debated a range of topics, including the use of the word “queer” in U.S. activist circles. During one conversation, some Latin American peers shared that they find the word to be imperialist, as it hides the lesbian feminist politic and identity they are fighting to assert.

As an educator activist and blogger, the personal connections I made with individual activists made all the difference in understanding the work that is being done in our sister countries. One Mexican feminist invited me to visit her sexual and reproductive rights youth group SEEDSSA in Cancún. At one point, a young activist from the Uruguayan group 19 y Liliana pulled out a book of their lesbian prose and poetry and asked me to share it with my students. During another moment, one of the leaders from Las Safinas in Argentina, gave me a video about her group. It was these kinds of connections that the convening was meant to inspire: we need to learn about each other so that we can build alliances for greater change.

Representing the U.S. contingent at the exchange were Astraea grantees including: Ari Chagoya from the Center for Artistic Revolution (CAR) in Little Rock; Liliana Hueso from QWOCMAP (Queer Women of Color Media Arts Project) in San Francisco; Dayanara Marte from Casa Atabex Ache in the Bronx, New York; Dilcia Molina from S.O.N.G. (Southerners on New Ground) in the U.S. Southeast; Rosa Yadira Ortíz from Amigas Latinas in Chicago, Graciela Sánchez from the Esperanza Peace & Justice Center in San Antonio; and Martha Zuniga from Entre Hermanos in Seattle.

Ortíz said of the event: “I was so astounded at how much work is being done by Latin American lesbian feminists.  I was even more shocked given the politicized nature of most organizations (i.e., so many took a lesbian and feminist position and some included a socialist, Marxist, polyamorous stance as well) and with limited resources and funds.  Their work made me think critically about the work I’m doing in the Midwest.  On a personal level, I was in awe of the elders in the space who were openly lesbian, openly Latin American, openly feminist and so proud. As a queer Latina/woman of color, it is not often that you get to meet so many out Latinas. I was humbled to learn from my sisters.”

While a one-day convening certainly cannot begin to find solutions to the many challenges we face in both the global north and south in areas such as discrimination, education, and immigration as well as issues such as internalized misogyny, sexism, and transphobia, I also could not help but feel a charged sense that we are getting that much closer to creating a world of gender justice. Indeed, throughout the exchange, Cherríe Moraga’s words were on my mind: “The real power, as you and I well know, is collective. I can’t afford to be afraid of you, nor you of me. If it takes head-on collisions, let’s do it: this polite timidity is killing us.”

Whether it takes one or a hundred more convenings, we will reach that utopia, and I want to be a part of it when it comes.

Ileana Jiménez is an educator and activist in New York. She is the founder and sole blogger at Feminist Teacher.

Disclaimer: This post was written by a Feministing Community user and does not necessarily reflect the views of any Feministing columnist, editor, or executive director.

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