Nick Espinosa is an activist for immigrant and worker’s rights best known for his glitter bombing of Republican politician Newt Gingrich last month. Espinosa, 24, has been an activist for years, but it was only recently that he discovered the power of humor and theatrics in politics. “Feel the rainbow, Newt!” he said as he poured silver glitter onto Gingrich at a book signing. “Stop the hate. Stop anti-gay politics. It’s dividing our country and it’s not fixing our economy.” And then security pushed him away.
Glitter bombing is controversial, but it is catching on, with another activist recently catching Michele Bachmann and Tim Pawlenty unawares. But Espinosa doesn’t understand the concern that glitter bombing is violent or even, that it could be construed as assault. “No one’s ever been hurt by glitter; I don’t know of any major glitter accidents that have gone down,” he told me. And while Bachmann, Pawlenty and Gingrich are probably safe from the spangled menace from now on, Espinosa hinted in this interview at who might be next on his sparkly hit-list.
And now, without further ado, the Feministing Five, with Nick Espinosa.
Chloe Angyal: What got you into glitter bombing and why do you think it’s an effective form of protest/activism?
Nick Espinosa: My activism really started at age fifteen, when my father was deported. We were working out in the yard when agents arrived without warning and took him, and it wasn’t until years later that I understood the way that my personal story fits into the larger narrative. Our whole immigration system is unjust and separates millions of fathers from their sons and mothers from their daughters, without any regard for the way that it’s tearing apart real living families. So I began organizing around immigrant rights, but it wasn’t until a Tea Party rally that I learned how effective creative and humorous actions can be.
My first stunt was a speech I gave at anti-immigrant Tea Party event, where I got them fired up about the immigrants that are taking over this country. They didn’t seem to notice that I was talking about European immigrants, starting with Columbus, and I even led a “Columbus go home” chant on stage. The national press I got for that action made me realize how effective humor can be for getting a message out, so from then on I began to look for opportunities to use political theater as a medium to communicate serious messages about issues of human rights, equality and justice. I think that glitter bombing is a project that’s fun, and safe, and it’s been very effective in pointing out the connections for politicians like Michele Bachmann and Newt Gingrich and Tim Pawlenty have to extremist anti-gay groups, and really exposing that anti-gay rhetoric that they’re using and the anti-gay extremism that they’re promoting.
CA: Who is your favorite fictional heroine, and who are your heroines in real life?
NE: My favorite fictional heroine is Dora the Explorer. There’s not a lot of Latina characters on television, and it’s nice that there’s a bi-lingual character on children’s television. And she has everything in that little backpack of hers. I bet she’s even got some glitter tucked away for Rick Santorum.
In real life, my mom. She’s one of the strongest women I know. She’s a single parent who raised me and my two younger siblings with a lot of love, even though she was struggling. We grew up on food stamps in a neighborhood where our house was robbed several times, and never had much money, but that never stopped her from supporting us and raising us to stand on our convictions and fight for what we believe in, and to use the struggles we go through to make us stronger and more determined human beings.
CA: What recent news story made you want to scream?
NE: When I was at Netroots Nation, I saw a video of Felipe Matos, who is an American DREAM activist who walked 1500 miles from Florida to Washington, DC, as a part of the Trail of Dreams to support undocumented youth like himself. And he was actually asking the White House communications director why the Obama administration has refused to sign an executive order halting the deportation of DREAM Act-eligible students, and this man couldn’t say anything besides, “President Obama supports the DREAM Act.” It was great to see Felipe engaging him directly, but it was also really frustrating to see the administration refusing to give relief to students who have done nothing wrong, and just want a chance to go to college without the constant fear of deportation. If Obama expects Latino voters to come out and campaign for his re-election next year, he has some work to do. He has a record of deporting more immigrants than any President in history, and I think at the very least he needs to stop the deportation of innocent DREAM Act students.
CA: What, in your opinion, is the greatest challenge facing feminism today?
NE: I think that as a man, I need to speak out against patriarchy, and hold my community accountable. As a person who constantly benefits from a society in which my gender is privileged, I see it as my responsibility to act as an ally to women, as part of a lifelong movement toward our collective liberation. I don’t think that women should have to be the ones bringing feminist issues up. They’re not just women’s issues, but basic issues of equality and justice, and as long as we live in a world where women are oppressed, none of us are free. I would also like to see the feminist movement grow out of what has sometimes been a largely white and middle class movement into one that’s more inclusive of women of color and women from the developing world. I think it’s crucial that we see the intersectionality of our oppressions, and build movements that reflect that and build power for all of us.
CA: You’re going to a desert island, and you’re allowed to take one food, one drink and one feminist. What do you pick?
NE: Tacos al pastor, Surly, which is a great local Minnesota beer, and Favianna Rodriguez, who is an emerging Latina artist and activist.