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11 amazing forgotten history artifacts from an exhibit about queer Latino history.

Personal mementos are being unearthed to celebrate the history of the queer Latinx family.

There's a fair amount of LGBTQ history, but it's predominantly white. Which is why a couple of Latino queer curators got to work building a first-of-its-kind LGBTQ exhibit.

Juliana Delgado Lopera and Ángel Rafael "Ralph" Vázquez-Concepción's new seminal show "Noche de Ambiente" will pay tribute to the Latino LGBTQ movement.

The word "ambiente" means atmosphere or environment in Spanish. It's also a term proudly adopted by the Latino LGBTQ community.


Recently, the term has become a way to celebrate everything that makes the Latino LGBTQ community culturally unique. The word also honors a spirit of resistance against adversity, as Latino culture has traditionally been quite homophobic.

The show shines a spotlight on Latino drag performance and LGBTQ and AIDS activism in San Francisco from the 1970s to the 1990s.

Right now, the exhibit is at the GLBT History Museum in San Francisco. It runs from Oct. 28, 2016, through February 2017. Members of the museum can experience the exhibit for free, while non-members pay $5.

Lopera, a queer woman, decided to launch this show because she wanted to pay tribute to people who played a crucial role in nurturing the queer Latinx community.

"This is my history, my community. The Cubans, Puerto Ricans, Mexicans, Colombians that paved the way for me to exist fully in my queer Latinidad," she says.

Latino queers have not had a place (or a voice) in our history until very recently, and watching that change has been amazing.

The "Ambiente" collection showcases everything from documents to photographs to flyers and certificates. Here are 13 of the most intriguing photographs and documents on display:

1. The exhibit celebrates Cuban transgender activist Adela Vázquez.

Trans performer and activist Adela Vázquez (bottom), Tamara Ching (middle), and a friend in the 1990s. Photo courtesy of Adela Vázquez and Juliana Delgado Lopera.

2. It highlights comedy on the "queer Latino tip" like "Full Frontal Rudity."

Poster for "Full Frontal Rudity" shown at Theatre Rhinoceros in the 1990s. Courtesy of Lito Sandoval.

3. It includes priceless photos like this one taken on New Year's 1994...

New Year's 1994 at Esta Noche by Jim Jess. Courtesy of Augie Robles.

4. ...and a letter from the mayor to gay rights activist George Raya.

A handwritten letter of thanks from San Francisco Mayor-Elect George Moscone to George Raya in 1975. Courtesy of George Raya Papers, GLBT Historical Society.

5. There's also an amazing moment of liberation captured in time.

New Year's 1994 at Esta Noche by Jim Jess. Courtesy of Augie Robles.

6. And "exclusively for Chicana-Latina butches." Why have we never seen these?

A poster from the 1990s of a project to combat AIDS. Courtesy of Adela Vázquez and Juliana Delgado Lopera.

7. This show finally gives queer Latinos a spotlight.

1994 New Year's at Esta Noche. Image by Jim Jess. Courtesy of Augie Robles.

8. You'll also see a flyer for a project to fight AIDS called "Porno, Polaroids & God." Catchy name.

A 1990s poster for "Proyecto Contra SIDA Por Vida's" (Project against AIDS) Porno, Polaroids & God Workshop. Courtesy of Jesse James Johnson.

9. Two words: Simply. Fabulous. This photo is amazing!

Adela Vázquez and Acasio Leon, aka "Tina." Courtesy of Adela Vázquez.

10. This certificate is a hidden gem of inclusivity we're seeing for the first time.

Certificate of Honor given to AGUILAS in 1995 by city Supervisor Susan Leal for the fifth annual Latino Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Visual Arts Show. Courtesy of Juan Alberto Tam.

11. The word "celebration" comes to mind with this photo. And deservedly so, thanks to the "Noche de Ambiente" exhibit.

1994 New Year's at Esta Noche. Image by Jim Jess. Courtesy of Augie Robles.

Most of the items in the exhibit are personal mementos. They were saved in photo albums and boxes by people who played a crucial role in building the LGBTQ community between 1970 and 1990. The curators began collecting them five years ago in preparation for the exhibit.

Lopera says she hopes to shine a light on folks like Adela Vázquez in this exhibit.

Vázquez, a transgender Cuban activist, took Lopera under her wing and introduced her to all things Latinx upon moving to San Francisco.

Lopera says, "Listening to Adela, her friends and people in my chosen family retell their stories of the '70s, '80s, and '90s while, at the same time, seeing no representation of their voices in mainstream queer history, awaken[ed] something in me."

Vázquez-Concepción, the exhibit's other curator, says he is keenly interested in how art exhibitions are apparatuses for brokering identities.

This exhibit helped him find a place in the conversation about queer Latinx visual and performance artists in San Francisco over the last 30 years.

He tells LGBT Weekly he heard the word "ambiente" a lot when he was a kid in the ’80s. "Later I came to understand the shielding effect it has. Like a spell, it turns the space it refers to into Latinx queer domain."

This powerful exhibit is a piece of forgotten history, helping all of us learn about the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans AIDS organizations that paved the way for incredible activism today.

"Latinos are an afterthought in all U.S. history, including queer history," Lopera says. "Here, in this exhibit, we're at the center. Our stories are the focal point. And, really, it's past overdue."

Couldn't have said it better myself.

Leah Menzies/TikTok

Leah Menzies had no idea her deceased mother was her boyfriend's kindergarten teacher.

When you start dating the love of your life, you want to share it with the people closest to you. Sadly, 18-year-old Leah Menzies couldn't do that. Her mother died when she was 7, so she would never have the chance to meet the young woman's boyfriend, Thomas McLeodd. But by a twist of fate, it turns out Thomas had already met Leah's mom when he was just 3 years old. Leah's mom was Thomas' kindergarten teacher.

The couple, who have been dating for seven months, made this realization during a visit to McCleodd's house. When Menzies went to meet his family for the first time, his mom (in true mom fashion) insisted on showing her a picture of him making a goofy face. When they brought out the picture, McLeodd recognized the face of his teacher as that of his girlfriend's mother.

Menzies posted about the realization moment on TikTok. "Me thinking my mum (who died when I was 7) will never meet my future boyfriend," she wrote on the video. The video shows her and McLeodd together, then flashes to the kindergarten class picture.

“He opens this album and then suddenly, he’s like, ‘Oh my God. Oh my God — over and over again,” Menzies told TODAY. “I couldn’t figure out why he was being so dramatic.”

Obviously, Menzies is taking great comfort in knowing that even though her mother is no longer here, they can still maintain a connection. I know how important it was for me to have my mom accept my partner, and there would definitely be something missing if she wasn't here to share in my joy. It's also really incredible to know that Menzies' mother had a hand in making McLeodd the person he is today, even if it was only a small part.

@speccylee

Found out through this photo in his photo album. A moment straight out of a movie 🥲

♬ iris - 🫶

“It’s incredible that that she knew him," Menzies said. "What gets me is that she was standing with my future boyfriend and she had no idea.”

Since he was only 3, McLeodd has no actual memory of Menzies' mother. But his own mother remembers her as “kind and really gentle.”

The TikTok has understandably gone viral and the comments are so sweet and positive.

"No the chills I got omggg."

"This is the cutest thing I have watched."

"It’s as if she remembered some significance about him and sent him to you. Love fate 😍✨"

In the caption of the video, she said that discovering the connection between her boyfriend and her mom was "straight out of a movie." And if you're into romantic comedies, you're definitely nodding along right now.

Menzies and McLeodd made a follow-up TikTok to address everyone's positive response to their initial video and it's just as sweet. The young couple sits together and addresses some of the questions they noticed pop up. People were confused that they kept saying McLeodd was in kindergarten but only 3 years old when he was in Menzies' mother's class. The couple is Australian and Menzies explained that it's the equivalent of American preschool.

They also clarified that although they went to high school together and kind of knew of the other's existence, they didn't really get to know each other until they started dating seven months ago. So no, they truly had no idea that her mother was his teacher. Menzies revealed that she "didn't actually know that my mum taught at kindergarten."

"I just knew she was a teacher," she explained.

She made him act out his reaction to seeing the photo, saying he was "speechless," and when she looked at the photo she started crying. McLeodd recognized her mother because of the pictures Menzies keeps in her room. Cue the "awws," because this is so cute, I'm kvelling.

A simple solution for all ages, really.

School should feel like a safe space. But after the tragic news of yet another mass shooting, many children are scared to death. As a parent or a teacher, it can be an arduous task helping young minds to unpack such unthinkable monstrosities. Especially when, in all honesty, the adults are also terrified.

Katelyn Campbell, a clinical psychologist in South Carolina, worked with elementary school children in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shooting. She recently shared a simple idea that helped then, in hopes that it might help now.

The psychologist tweeted, “We had our kids draw pictures of scenery that made them feel calm—we then hung them up around the school—to make the ‘other kids who were scared’ have something calm to look at.”



“Kids, like adults, want to feel helpful when they feel helpless,” she continued, saying that drawing gave them something useful to do.

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It can be hard to find hope in hard times, but we have examples of humanity all around us.

I almost didn't create this post this week.

As the U.S. reels from yet another horrendous school massacre, barely on the heels of the Buffalo grocery store shooting and the Laguna Woods church shooting reminding us that gun violence follows us everywhere in this country, I find myself in a familiar state of anger and grief and frustration. One time would be too much. Every time, it's too much. And yet it keeps happening over and over and over again.

I've written article after article about gun violence. I've engaged in every debate under the sun. I've joined advocacy groups, written to lawmakers, donated to organizations trying to stop the carnage, and here we are again. Round and round we go.

It's hard not to lose hope. It would be easy to let the fuming rage consume every bit of joy and calm and light that we so desperately want and need. But we have to find a balance.

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