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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.

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

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.

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Judy Vaughan has spent most of her life helping other women, first as the director of House of Ruth, a safe haven for homeless families in East Los Angeles, and later as the Project Coordinator for Women for Guatemala, a solidarity organization committed to raising awareness about human rights abuses.

But in 1996, she decided to take things a step further. A house became available in the mid-Wilshire area of Los Angeles and she was offered the opportunity to use it to help other women and children. So, in partnership with a group of 13 people who she knew from her years of activism, she decided to make it a transitional residence program for homeless women and their children. They called the program Alexandria House.

"I had learned from House of Ruth that families who are homeless are often isolated from the surrounding community," Judy says. "So we decided that as part of our mission, we would also be a neighborhood center and offer a number of resources and programs, including an after-school program and ESL classes."

She also decided that, unlike many other shelters in Los Angeles, she would accept mothers with their teenage boys.

"There are very few in Los Angeles [that do] due to what are considered liability issues," Judy explains. "Given the fact that there are (conservatively) 56,000 homeless people and only about 11,000 shelter beds on any one night, agencies can be selective on who they take."

Their Board of Directors had already determined that they should take families that would have difficulties finding a place. Some of these challenges include families with more than two children, immigrant families without legal documents, moms who are pregnant with other small children, families with a member who has a disability [and] families with service dogs.

"Being separated from your son or sons, especially in the early teen years, just adds to the stress that moms who are unhoused are already experiencing," Judy says.

"We were determined to offer women with teenage boys another choice."

Courtesy of Judy Vaughan

Alexandria House also doesn't kick boys out when they turn 18. For example, Judy says they currently have a mom with two daughters (21 and 2) and a son who just turned 18. The family had struggled to find a shelter that would take them all together, and once they found Alexandria House, they worried the boy would be kicked out on his 18th birthday. But, says Judy, "we were not going to ask him to leave because of his age."

Homelessness is a big issue in Los Angeles. "[It] is considered the homeless capital of the United States," Judy says. "The numbers have not changed significantly since 1984 when I was working at the House of Ruth." The COVID-19 pandemic has only compounded the problem. According to Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), over 66,000 people in the greater Los Angeles area were experiencing homelessness in 2020, representing a rise of 12.7% compared with the year before.

Each woman who comes to Alexandria House has her own unique story, but some common reasons for ending up homeless include fleeing from a domestic violence or human trafficking situation, aging out of foster care and having no place to go, being priced out of an apartment, losing a job, or experiencing a family emergency with no 'cushion' to pay the rent.

"Homelessness is not a definition; it is a situation that a person finds themselves in, and in fact, it can happen to almost anyone. There are many practices and policies that make it almost impossible to break out of poverty and move out of homelessness."

And that's why Alexandria House exists: to help them move out of it. How long that takes depends on the woman, but according to Judy, families stay an average of 10 months. During that time, the women meet with support staff to identify needs and goals and put a plan of action in place.

A number of services are provided, including free childcare, programs and mentoring for school-age children, free mental health counseling, financial literacy classes and a savings program. They have also started Step Up Sisterhood LA, an entrepreneurial program to support women's dreams of starting their own businesses. "We serve as a support system for as long as a family would like," Judy says, even after they have moved on.

And so far, the program is a resounding success.

92 percent of the 200 families who stayed at Alexandria House have found financial stability and permanent housing — not becoming homeless again.

Since founding Alexandria House 25 years ago, Judy has never lost sight of her mission to join with others and create a vision of a more just society and community. That is why she is one of Tory Burch's Empowered Women this year — and the donation she receives as a nominee will go to Alexandria House and will help grow the new Start-up Sisterhood LA program.

"Alexandria House is such an important part of my life," says Judy. "It has been amazing to watch the children grow up and the moms recreate their lives for themselves and for their families. I have witnessed resiliency, courage, and heroic acts of generosity."

Researchers at Harvard University have studied the connection between spanking and kids' brain development for the first time, and their findings echo what studies have indicated for years: Spanking isn't good for children.

Comments on this article will no doubt be filled with people who a) say they were spanked and "turned out fine" or b) say that the reason kids are [fill in the blank with some societal ill] these days are because they aren't spanked. However, a growing body of research points to spanking creating more problems than it solves.

"We know that children whose families use corporal punishment are more likely to develop anxiety, depression, behavior problems, and other mental health problems, but many people don't think about spanking as a form of violence," said Katie A. McLaughlin, director of the Stress & Development Lab in the Department of Psychology, and the senior researcher on the study which was published Friday in the journal Child Development. "In this study, we wanted to examine whether there was an impact of spanking at a neurobiological level, in terms of how the brain is developing."

You can read the entire study here, but the gist is that kids' brain activity was measured using an MRI machine as they reacted to photos of actors displaying "fearful" and "neutral" faces. What researchers found was that kids who had been spanked had similar brain neural responses to fearful faces as kids who had been abused.

"There were no regions of the brain where activation to fearful relative to neutral faces differed between children who were abused and children who were spanked," the authors wrote in a statement.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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