José Luis Íñiguez spends time with Macho Menos at the LGBT Center in San Francisco, CA.
“The grass is much greener on this side,” that is what he said to me ten years ago. I stood there in trepidation not knowing what it felt to be liberated. I was twenty at that time and very innocent in all phases of my life. Johnny was very sweet in guarding my secrets and respecting my silence. He was my comrade, a friend that helped ease the difficult times in the Valley of Tears. I recall our beautiful dialogues about the future and what we desired for ourselves. He envisioned himself living in the Bay and I projected living in the city of Los Angeles. Years down the line, I find myself living in the space he imagined himself inhabiting and with a strong objective of never negating myself from the world.
I came to the Bay to rekindle my interest in Art and through my grad school experiences; I made connections with many artist of the LGBT community, which has enriched my life in many ways. My first interaction with queer people was the night my sexuality was questioned. It was on 16th Street in the Mission that I first declared to the universe my queerness.
“Are you Gay?”
I recall my heart palpitating at full force and my mouth trembling with the desire of my tongue getting caught between my teeth. The word came out and like that, I was reborn. I had negated so much of myself throughout the years that this monumental awakening helped me confront the complexities of my community and reclaim a big part of my identity.
Since my declaration, my greatest interest has been to support and collaborate with the queer community. It has been gratifying interchanging dialogues, producing work with many talented artists, and knowing that I have a community that has my back when I encounter rough situations in a hetero-normative world. Pride month has filled in the gaps of uncertainty in a time where we are still fighting for our rights on a worldwide level. The plight of my people is extremely real and our voices are a present demanding consciousness of our needs.
This month, I have encountered many beautiful projects that have uplifted my spirit and brought to my attention the strength of our voices through different forms of artwork. The National Queer Arts Festival sparked our Pride celebrations in San Francisco by helping local artist curate over forty art shows that have bridged connections across many borders of ethnicity, gender, ability and economic status as well as social justice and spirituality. It weaved many thought-provoking perspectives on current issues surrounding the LGBT community. I was given the opportunity to be part of Macho Menos, an exhibition curated by Alex Hernandez and Rob Fatal, which presented different perspectives of artwork that works with, against, and around gendered expectations of respective Latino culture. The LGBT Community Center endorsed this exhibition-allowing artist to investigate their relationship with “machismo” through the mediums of photography, painting, video, sculpture, textiles, performance and multi-media.
Macho Menos is a Latino queer slang that plays on the Spanish phrase “mas o menos,” which translates to “more of less.” This exhibition analyzes and expands on this phrase to examine a greater complicated picture that connects between homosexuality and macho philosophy. We are taught at an early age of our development to always think in binary when it comes to gender. It is very difficult to escape the masculine and feminine because our language is gendered. Through our work, we investigate and discuss our relationship with our Latino roots and challenge social expectations of what “manliness” means to us.
e. Salvador Hernandez (eshcetera; pronounced eh-shh-she-tuhr-ahh) is a 2nd generation multi-ethnic Gender Queer art educator from Los Angeles. A one-time aspiring photojournalist documenting fringe communities around him, eshcetera discovers issues relating to identity playing a major role in their approach to the arts. eshcetera’s collection of artwork encircled Queer-identity, second-generation Chicano/a, and GenderQueer-centered observations, narratives and musings fused with Queer theory, gender politics, sexuality, and lived experiences. Caress No. 2, he infuses his artwork with ambiguous silhouettes that prompts longing, yearn for empathy, and expresses companionship, social ideas that most queer Latinos yearn for through the teachings of our traditional families.
Alexander Hernandez is a Mexican-born multimedia artist living in San Francisco. His practice consists of photography, performance and textile in order to investigate tactile craft processes in queer communities; moreover how this process is used to unite marginalized people. He has MFA from California College of the Arts and works with at risk youth at Larkin Street Youth Services.
Senalka McDonald is a Panamanian American self-identified geographer-slash-artist investigating themes of social transgression, identity play, and imagined spaces. Using performative gestures and utterances, she examines the perceived role of an-other, focusing on the very real trauma of being taught ones “place.” That “place,” embodied physically, lives internally, practically in our subconscious, at the edge of social breakdown.
Being part of Macho Menos allowed me to connect with other individuals that frequently encounter the high value of “manliness” in a machista culture. Fighting against a salient feature that limits the roles played by male and female in my community, which often unfolds attributes of courage, dominance, power, aggressiveness, and invulnerability. It has given me a platform to continue challenging the struggles that we face on a daily basis and to bring awareness that we the Latino community have not had our sexual revolution.