“By increasing our visibility we can increase tolerance, empower, educate, gain acceptance, and finally start healing”
What I enjoyed most most about working with youth in my community was that I could relate to many of their home experiences and traditions. They were like me! Mostly first and second generation children of immigrants. I wanted all of them to succeed and hoped that my guidance could help. One student that was constantly sent to my office once asked me “ Miss, why do you even care if I graduate? Do you get a bonus or something?” I told him, “ You are my investment because I live here in your community! I want you to be my son’s teacher or doctor. I want you to help people I love. I want you to buy a house on my block and be able to afford to care for your home and your family and that’s why I want you to graduate!” He responded, “Miss, that’s cool!”
While I was working as a guidance counselor at our local high schools I got to work with many Latino teens that had not yet come out as LGBTQ to their families or friends. In many cases I was the privileged first that some of my students came out to. They trusted me! Some would ask for my opinion or advice on how to approach their parent about their sexuality. Many parents also asked me for help. One mother barged in asking me to help her get “consejeria” to cure her daughter “por ser gay”. She admitted that she took her daughter to a priest in hopes that confession and prayer would change her "back to normal”. Knowing that she was a god fearing woman, I responded, “Senora! There is nothing wrong with your child. God makes no mistakes! Y con todo respeto, the one that needs help is you.” I shared with her that my son was born with profound deafness and that I wished that child will grow to be as intelligent and healthy as her daughter. This mother, in tears was one of the many that confessed that what she feared most was the judgement of her family and her neighbors. Like most mothers she also feared for her child’s safety as there had been an increase in bullying and hate crimes against LGBTQ youth during those times. I can understand that part, as I grew up in a very macho community with machismo traditions. I listened to the many conversations and witnessed how queers in my family were treated, shamed and made fun of. How can any youth grow, thrive, or reach their maximum potential if they are not allowed to be themselves? It is difficult to accept yourself when your own family or community can’t except you. Even more difficult to have self-love when your own mother or father rejects who you are. I observed this with many youth that I worked with. Many struggled with mental health, engaged in self harming and risky behavior. How can our families thrive when this is still happening? I think it is our responsibility to create opportunities and safe spaces like The Queer Mercado and The Goddess Mercado where marginalized communities can come together to celebrate creativity, express themselves, be inspired, build entrepreneurship, and to start healing from mental health crisis that is affecting many of our youth.
When I started The Goddess Mercado (April 2021)- all Latina/Chicana vendor pop up marketplace, my friends, proud queer and gifted artist reached out to me. Andrew asked if he could join The Goddess Mercado. "It's only for mujeres!", I told him. How could I say no? How could I not include my friend? Instead, I told him that I would create The Queer Mercado. A few of the places I scouted rejected the idea but I was already in talks with LAUSD about allowing our non-profit mercado out of their Hilda Solis High School Campus. When I pitched the idea of The Queer Mercado to LAUSD their response was “it’s about time”.
Thanks to a collaborative effort of volunteers and supporters, we have grown from 40 to 110 Queer vendors/brands including sponsored youth, artists, and musical performers. A portion of the money raised from vendor fees is donated to Hilda Solis Learning Academy and the rest pays for youth that help us run the Mercados. Join our movement the 3rd Saturday of every month starting February 19th 2021 10am-4pm at Hilda Solis Learning Academy 319 N. Humphreys Ave 90022