This blog post is the second in a series that features the Connecting Communities Digital Initiative (CCDI) Junior Fellows from the Library’s 2023 Junior Fellows program. These posts highlight each fellow and the projects they developed. CCDI funded six interns in this year’s virtual 10-week program. CCDI is part of the Library’s Mellon-funded Of the People: Widening the Path initiative.
This summer, CCDI’s Junior Fellows created guides that examine Library collections and demonstrate how to use those collections to develop creative projects such as zines, textiles, and collages. They explored topics that ranged from Black and Asian American activism, to the LGBTQ+ Latinx movement, to community-based collaborations, to art and expressive culture, including Asian textiles and African American hair history. As part of their work, they interviewed Library staff and other users to discuss their research topics and to learn more about the Library’s collections.
This guest post, written by Erica Quinones, a 2023 CCDI Junior Fellow, introduces her project, “Designing Liberation: Printing Queer Latinx Activism in the 1970s.” Erica is a Ph.D. student in English at the University of Delaware where she studies post-1945 science fiction with a focus on queer perspectives and robots.
You can read her guide here.
Designing Liberation is a zine and user guide that explores Latinx involvement in the 1970s gay liberation movement by examining the story of Third World Gay Revolution (TWGR). The group’s biography leads readers through important historical topics and developments in gay rights, like the history of discriminatory immigration policies and the formation of the Gay Liberation Front; how Latinx activists used print to respond to their moment; and how activists discussed the intertwining of their Latinx and queer identities not only through their words but through their images. Working on the historical parts of the zine was an exciting process itself, allowing me to dive into an angle of queer history that’s often overlooked and is just now seeing a resurgence in scholarly interest.What sparked this project was a love for these activists’ creativity and a desire to create alongside them.
A book isn’t enough to discuss Latinx involvement in the gay liberation movement, let alone a zine. In the end, I was able to talk about three years of a movement and one subgroup of activists who disbanded within nine months. I’ve read a book where the same time period spanned three full chapters, and TWGR was one clause of that space, because just listing the number of queer Latinx groups took up at least a page. So, I had to define limits for myself and kill those darlings, selecting one group to feature in Designing Liberation.
The intellectual explanation for how I selected TWGR might point towards their scholarly relevance, as their 16-point platform is analyzed in one of the most significant queer theory texts of the 2000s, José Esteban Muñoz’s Cruising Utopia. Or I might talk about the group’s connection to the Gay Liberation Front, which is a major player in the gay rights movement, and their coalitional structure, which approaches gay rights from an intersectional position more akin to the movement we see today. But all those weighty justifications are secondary to the fact that I wanted to know more about them because I fell in love with the prints their graphic designer, Juan Carlos Vidal, made.
The Junior Fellows who I worked with all summer are very aware of this poster, Gay is Angry, Gay Revolution Networker, by Vidal. I saw it in the Library of Congress’ LGBTQ+ Collection within the first week of starting this project, and I never stopped thinking about it. Its rainbow colors caught my attention first, and when I could give it a closer look, I was blown away by the mixture of potential violence and explosive beauty. It immediately made me want to find out who the creator Juan Carlos was, and the more I knew about him and his partner, Néstor Latrónico, the more I loved this print. It went from being cool to being an artwork where every element down to a butterfly is working to try and vocalize a complex network of ideas about freedom that are connected to gender, sexuality, class, race and nationality. Vidal pulls from militant, revolutionary groups for the bomb symbol, anti-imperialist movements for his pile of American corporate logos and possibly from the Argentinian gay rights movement for the iconic butterflies. On its face, it’s a simple and stunning poster, but with a little context, it’s a design that likely wouldn’t exist without the conversations that were occurring around Vidal.
I found Vidal’s art so inspiring that I had to create alongside him and talk about his journey of creation, which brought me to print as my chosen medium of both creation and study.
Besides giving me a gorgeous, visual medium to explore in a zine, print (be it magazine publications, newspapers, or posters) is also how we share ideas, develop ideas and create a record of our existence. The Library of Congress has an extensive collection of gay periodicals and zines, so we can explore historical and contemporary conversations within the LGBTQ+ community. There’s been a recent increase in scholarship about TWGR that includes interviews with Latrónico, who survives Vidal, but until very recently, most scholarship focused only on their publications. So, not only was this project inspired by their print materials, but this project only exists because those materials outlived them. And those materials are alive, not just preserved.
In the early 1970s, when TWGR had recently disbanded, their print materials were being circulated around the globe. Writers continuously found their spreads, felt a spark from them, and replied in kind, writing letters about experiences with homophobia in Cuba,[i] or about the need for anti-racist approaches to gay rights in Australia.[ii] Their essay, “The Oppressed Shall Not Become the Oppressors,” was even translated into Spanish and published in the Frente de Liberación Homosexual’s (FLH) magazine, Homosexuales,[iii] without Vidal and Latrónico’s knowledge,[iv] despite both men immigrating back to Argentina and joining the FLH during the same period. It’s a cycle of discovery, spark, and creation that moved Vidal, moved his contemporaries, moved me and hopefully moves my readers.
There is so much more to queer Latinx history that needs to be talked about. If I could make this a series, it’d never end. But I can’t do that (right now), and hopefully the research topics, resources and tactics that Designing Liberation introduces can be helpful to the impassioned reader who’s also moved to do this work.
- [i] Anonymous, “Sisters and Brothers: By Chance, We Got a Copy of Your Publication with the Third World Gay Revolution Platform (Gay Flames, Pamphlet No. 7),” Come Out! 2 (7b), Spring-Summer 1971: 4-5.
- [ii] Allen Young, “A Gay Manifesto,” William and John (7), November 1972: 42-59.
- [iii] Third World Gay Revolution, “Los Oprimidos No Se Convertiran En Opresores,” Homosexuales (6), July 1973: 3.
- [iv] Gérman Garrido, “The World in Question: A Cosmopolitical Approach to Gay/Homosexual Liberation Movements in/and the ‘Third World’ (from Argentina to the United States),” GLQ 27 (30), 2021: 392.
Check out Erica’s guide here!
CCDI is part of the Library’s Of the People: Widening the Path program with support from the Mellon Foundation. This four-year program provides financial and technical support to individuals, institutions and organizations to create imaginative projects using the Library’s digital collections and centering one or more of the following groups: Black, Indigenous, Hispanic/Latinx, Asian American and Pacific Islander, and other communities of color from any of the 50 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and its territories and commonwealths (Puerto Rico, Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, American Samoa, U.S. Virgin Islands). Learn more about CCDI here.