BAS Pride 2015 Call to Action: Unity Rally for Chicano LGBT Mural (7/1)
For the third time, in less than a month, a simple, yet powerful, art installation has been marred by hate. Manuel Paul’s Por Vida, which was installed to great fanfare from the queer Latino community on June 13th, was defaced again late Monday, this time by arson.
That it has escalated to this point of desperation on the part of the perpetrators, that they would risk the lives and homes of those who have lived upstairs from the Galería de la Raza, some for over twenty- years, speaks to the extent of what a terrible place they live in that an image of love and community alone can unhinge them to this point and the insidious damage that machismo and patriarchy wield.
When the first panels went up on June 12th, it was of the two women embracing and part of the trans man in the center. Cis male passers-by crowed, voicing their delight in the representation of “la Raza”.
The same passers-by mood drastically soured when the last panel, depicting two gay men tenderly holding each other was papered onto the iconic space, leading to subsequent denunciations and threats both online and off, of appropriating the culture of the neighbourhood by queer gentrifiers wishing to co-opt cholos and the low-rider culture for their own prurient fetishization and agenda.
In the various defacements of the mural during this fucked-up saga, it has been the two cis gay men that caught the initial wreckage, first by paint and now by fire. The women and trans man were initially spared, but it was speculated that when the vandals realized the center subject was trans, that they then got the same treatment.
I guess, if the mural been of hard looking cis cholos and two “fine hynas” making out, things would have been just swell.
Machismo, like most denial, is a fragile thing. The conditioning is pretty thorough from the minute we’re born. To show emotion or, God forbid, cry is to lose your shit, your upper hand, and that all-important perception of who you are.
The eroticization of two women and even gay dudes fucking on the DL is as commonplace in the Mission as just about everywhere else, but why this work struck such a cord was because it suggested that even in the middle of our patriarchal bullshit, two women might lovingly embrace without benefit of a man, a man can be born out of another form and two men can find affection in each others arms, as they are, in the open.
During the second install of the piece, various 24th Street regulars would circle the mural as we scraped off the old one to tell the volunteers we were wasting our time. They “knew who it was”, and they would do it again. They, personally, “had gay family and friends”, but to imply they were part of this community in such a public way was going too far. It might cause children to make the same misguided choices. (Never mind choices like felony arson.)
In their attempts to dissuade us, however, they had betrayed their own lie- the real reason we “don’t exist” within this community, that community or whichever, is because they choose not see us. And if they do, they block, delete or burn us out.
They will, however, see us tomorrow. Supervisor Campos’ office and the gallery, despite the threats and intimidation are calling the community to rally, united, in front of the scorched remnants of this amazing gift that the Maricón Collective gave us as a token of pride. Whether you are queer or straight; a person of colour, or white, it is imperative that we stand in solidarity with this mainstay of the community for over forty years.
The Mission, like many neighbourhoods in this town, is a community on the brink. With land and property at a premium, a community divided and brown-on-brown crime conveniently facilitate the kind of “sweeping” and “cleaning-up” those interests would be all to happy to expedite.
Whether it be locking up the “blood thirsty Aztecs” of the Sleepy Lagoon or the “degenerate” screaming queens at Compton’s Cafeteria, it does us no favours to forget who we are, our common threads, and how often they are interwoven.
In addition to the rally tonight, there will be a forum open to everyone on July 18th, which will allow dialogue instead of division. Let’s take the core theme of the artwork, and move forward together, united in solidarity, love and empathy por vida.
Unity Rally For Chicano LGBT Mural
Wednesday, July 1, 2015 6:00 p.m.- 7:00 p.m.
Saturday, July 18, 2015
Galería de la Raza
2857 24th Street (@ Bryant)