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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Finding community acceptance

    From left, panel members Abraham Varelas, Magdalena Escohedo, Josefina Ahumada, Raul Alcaraz, Martin  Celaya and Violeta Ramos, speak at the Chicano Student Affairs, Latino Pride Session in recognition of Hispanic Heritage Month.
    From left, panel members Abraham Varelas, Magdalena Escohedo, Josefina Ahumada, Raul Alcaraz, Martin Celaya and Violeta Ramos, speak at the Chicano Student Affairs, Latino Pride Session in recognition of Hispanic Heritage Month.

    For the first time ever, another voice is being heard within the Hispanic community at the University of Arizona – the lesbian and gay community.

    Six panelists, representing both the Hispanic and gay communities, introduced to the audience the struggles of facing social oppression for both their race and their sexual orientation.

    Each panelist spoke of their experiences coming out to family members and the difficulty of maintaining their identities as a Latino. Family expectations, misshapen identity and strong Catholic roots made expressing their sexuality especially difficult.

    Josefina Ahumada, field event coordinator for Arizona State University College of Public Programs’s School of Social Work in Tucson, spoke of the religious ideals that keep many from accepting gays within the Latino world.

    “”Unfortunately, because religion is such a powerful force, it ends up alienating people,”” she said. “”Many churches are starting to form gay outreach programs. It’s a start, but we are not there yet.””

    Throughout the night both the gay and Hispanic communities expressed the feeling that they are not considered a part of “”mainstream America.”” Still, though the two communities often integrate, the panelists said they felt there was a lack of acceptance of LBGTQ lifestyles in the Hispanic community. Ruben Alcaraz, a member of the Tucson gay community, said he felt he didn’t fit into the society’s norm. He urged the addition of more events for the expression of gay pride within Hispanic culture.

    “”I feel as though I live in the margins of this society, not (being) recognized,”” Alcaraz said. “”We are starting to make these margins our centers.””

    The importance of this event was, the panel said, pivotal for both the gay and Hispanic communities. Alcaraz thought of the panel members as “”burden-lifters”” for those who are uncertain of their emergence as a gay Latino.

    “”Regardless of how people respond to my sexuality,”” Alcaraz continued, “”it was like a burden lifted off my shoulders.””

    Alcaraz is confident that experiences like his are the stories of many Hispanic people, he said.

    The final theme of the night was of hope and optimism for the future.

    “”Having events like this – that bring together people who are both gay and Latino – is progression in itself. Trust is in our younger generation,”” Ahumada said. “”All we can do is hope.””

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