Friday, October 23rd the Colegio de la Frontera Norte, Cd. Juárez Campus (COLEF), hosted the “Jornada sobre diversidades sexo-genéricas: Filodiversdad.” The event featured a press conference promoting the Cartilla LGBTTTI, a Mexican federal legal tool designed to articulate the rights of queer people and victims of sexual violence. Following the press conference, the COLEF presented an academic panel, “Diversidad sexual y derechos humanos”; a presentation of the newly published Queer Geographies; a live performance of Juarez artist, Ramón Padilla; and a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the COLEF installation of the Engendering Community Project. The jornada serves as an excellent example of the intersection of public history, interdisciplinarity, and activism in a borderlands context.
The headliner of the event, Ana Suárez from the Comisión Ejecutiva de Atención a Víctimas, joined Alfredo Limas of the Universidad Autónoma de Cd. Juárez and event coordinator Salvador Cruz (COLEF) for the opening panel on sexual diversity and violence. Cruz, a social scientist interested in masculinities, youth, and violence, offered a theoretical context for the event’s discussion. Limas, whose work focuses on gendered violence in Juárez, offered a discussion of alarmingly hateful online response to media coverage of LGBT civil rights advances. Providing a policy-based perspective on gendered violence, Suárez described the Cartilla and its function as a legal standard. Though she emphasized that civil rights are not negotiable, she recognized the challenges LGBTQ Mexicans face and lamented that many of them feel exercising their civil rights is a far-fetched dream.
Joining the event to promote Queer Geographies were project coordinator Lasse Lau and contributor Felipe Zúñiga-González. Blending provocative short essays and striking photography the self-published work explores queerness, activism, and visual arts in Beirut, Tijuana, and Copenhagen. A must-read for folks interested in queer theory, space, and sexuality, this gritty work even takes the reader cruising for sex in the bushes of a Copenhagen park and in the online chat rooms of Tijuana. The book’s most innovative feature, “A Hands Routine,” comes in form of a folding map. Describing a different type of clandestine rendezvous, the timeline of in-car hand holding documents Lebanese artist Omar Mismar’s everyday decisions to hide or come out.
Like Queer Geographies, the Engendering Community Project aims to celebrate the experiences of queer people in marginalized spaces, notably the border community of El Paso-Juárez. Started over five years ago as an oral history project by the former director of women’s studies at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP), Brenda Risch, Engendering Community evolved into a hugely successful public history exhibit which ran from June through September at UTEP’s Centennial Museum. Explaining the project’s trajectory and the feminist/ethical impulse to have the project available for participants and the public on both sides of the border, J. Aaron Waggoner (this author) inaugurated the COLEF opening. Though the exhibit will be only be available at its current location through early December, it will provide a space for ongoing conversations and organizing.
J. Aaron Waggoner is a Doctoral Candidate in History at the University of Texas at El Paso.