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Companeros: Latino Activists in the Face of AIDS

Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 192
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    Telling the affecting stories of eighty gay, bisexual, and transgender (GBT) Latino activists and volunteers living in Chicago and San Francisco, Compañeros: Latino Activists in the Face of AIDS closely details how these individuals have been touched or transformed by the AIDS epidemic. _x000B__x000B_Weaving together activists' responses to oppression and stigma, their encounters with AIDS, and their experiences as GBTs and Latinos in North America and Latin America, Jesus Ramirez-Valles explores the intersection of civic involvement with ethnic and sexual identity. Even as activists battle multiple sources of oppression, they are able to restore their sense of family connection and self-esteem through the creation of an alternative space in which community members find value in their relationships with one another. In demonstrating the transformative effects of a nurturing community environment for GBT Latinos affected by the AIDS epidemic, Ramirez-Valles illustrates that members find support in one another, as compañeros, in their struggles with homophobia, gender discrimination, racism, poverty, and forced migration.

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09347-0
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. 1-18)

    My first memories of AIDS are blurred. I do remember reading inEl Norte, a Mexican national newspaper, something about homosexuals dying of a strange disease in the United States. It was a Sunday morning and I was in bed, in the two-room apartment I shared with a classmate. It was either 1985 or 1986 and I was in college, in Monterrey, Mexico. I did not know then that I was a gay man. I only knew I was different from most males and that I was attracted to men. Nor did I know how such a disease, AIDS, would...

  5. CHAPTER ONE Social-class Origins and Trajectories
    (pp. 19-36)

    Social-class origins determine our life chances (McDonough and Berglund 2003; Feinstein 1993). It shapes our education, occupation, health status, migration, and life style. Latino GBTs who experience poverty also experience low levels of self-esteem and social support, and high levels of HIV and sexual risk behaviors (Díaz and Ayala 2001; Ramirez-Valles and Díaz 2005).

    I grew up in something between a poor and a working-class family. At times we had nothing to eat but beans and potatoes. But my mother supported our education; she never asked us, or pushed us, to work or to leave school for a job. My...

  6. CHAPTER TWO Gender Deviants
    (pp. 37-62)

    “Cucurrucucu, paloma. Cucurrucucu, no llores” (dove, don’t cry), Blanca sang to me as she described the night a promoter found her singing in a nightclub. “Cucurrucucu Paloma,” a ranchera song, was made popular by Lola Beltrán, known in Mexico as the “queen of ranchero music.” In the early 1960s, at the age of twenty-five, Blanca took the stage persona of Lola Beltrán and started making her living singing in bars and nightclubs in California. She frequently used the wordqueento describe herself, instead of the longerdrag queen. She was very proud of her gifted voice, which, according to...

  7. CHAPTER THREE The Meanings of Latino
    (pp. 63-80)

    The wordLatinomeans nothing and everything. It can be an empty category. It can also be full of meanings and contradictions.Latinois a socially constructed concept or category when referring to a group. Its existence and meanings are contingent on a particular social and historical context. In this instance, the context is the U.S. racial system. Outside the United States,Latinois almost nonexistent. If it does exist, its meanings are different and perhaps less powerful than those in the United States. To think ofLatinoas a social construct is not to deny the actual consequences of...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR The Formation of Gay and Trans Identities
    (pp. 81-99)

    To become a gay or a transgender person is, still, an act of rebellion. The rebellion is against the power that asks us to follow the predefined gender roles of a man or a woman. The force that compels us to think, act, and desire as a man (in the case of those biologically defined as males) or a woman (in the case of those biologically defined as females). That force comes through family, school, religion, media, law, and state policies.

    The act of rebellion, however, does not lead to freedom, or the newly found freedom is not boundless. As...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE Life with HIV and AIDS
    (pp. 100-116)

    HIV triggers a transformation of the self that may lead to activism. The transformation, however, is frequently painful and slow, and activism is not its immediate outcome. Fear, shame, illness, and depression usually come before. This change and the stories that we are about to read come about in large part because of the advances in the medical treatments. Even as recently as 1990, these stories would not have been feasible. The medical treatments, commonly known as HAART (highly active antiretroviral therapy), along with the services of AIDS organizations, have prolonged the life expectancy and improved the quality of life...

  10. CHAPTER SIX Getting Involved
    (pp. 117-137)

    Gerardo and Orlando, both from Chicago, were involved in the creation of two small, distinct organizations: a volunteer-based organization of Latino gay men and an organization dedicated to providing HIV education and prevention services for Latino and black gay and bisexual men. Gerardo and Orlando are both in their forties; they worked in the same city with different groups of men. Although they took different paths, the circumstances that led them to the creation of those organizations are quite alike and remarkably similar to the ones that led me to the AIDS movement.

    In the late 1980s, when the AIDS...

  11. CHAPTER SEVEN Finding Compañeros
    (pp. 138-155)

    A few hours into our conversation and toward the end of the interview, I asked Humberto about his volunteer work: “What was important about working with other Latinos?” He answered:

    To have that sense of home again. That feeling of family. Knowing that I can walk into the room where there are Latinos I really know; that I don’t feel this thing that I have to clam up.

    Withamericanosyou always hold back, unless you know them a little bit better. But I’ve learned never let down my guard withamericanos, white Americans. And no matter how friendly they...

  12. CONCLUSION: The Road of Compañeros
    (pp. 156-164)

    We had driven for two hours, when Marco asked me to stop and turn back. We were on our way to Chihuahua, the state’s capital, to meet with a group of gay men who were working on HIV and AIDS. Acompañerawe met in the women’s health organization for which I was working in Ciudad Juárez had put us in contact with the group. Older than us and a product of the student movement of the late 1960s in Mexico, Patsy was a hippie. She lived in Chihuahua and knew of this small group of men who had come...

    (pp. 165-166)
    (pp. 167-174)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 175-179)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 180-182)