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Remembering queer voices and history through art

Joel Molina
Attendee looks upon the art on display at the Queer History Month Gallery.

As crisp autumn leaves begin to fall, a month of celebrating and remembering queer history is upon us as brothers, sisters and siblings in the LGBTQ+ community hold hands to share their stories and experiences. In remembrance of those like Marsha P. Johnson and events like the Stonewall Riots, a community that has shed tears and fought back with perseverance, dedicates this month to celebrating and observing the history within the community.    

Commemorating this history, UTEP arranged a Queer History Month Gallery which opened Oct. 2, highlighting various LGBTQ+ artists in the El Paso community, offering them a safe and welcoming space to display their unique experiences and voices on what it means to be queer through art.    

One of the organizers for the gallery, Carla Sarinana, considers it a way for the public to view these sentimental pieces that are shared, that are sometimes not visible and get a raw outlook on the experiences of being queer in the borderland.     

“It’s important to let people express themselves and give them that platform to display things that are sensitive and personal to them,” Sarinana said. “A lot of the stories that are shared along the art talk about their experience being queer here in the borderland or the only queer person in their family. All of these things that people don’t tend to see so to make them visible in a space was important.”  

A memorial wall filled with flowers dedicated to deceased LGBTQ+ people, including Mercedes Demarco, a drag queen in the El Paso community whose story was displayed. Demarco passed away in El Paso police custody in October 2013, making this month more special to all those who will remember her. This is one of the few pieces that touch on the stories of being queer in the Hispanic community.  

“UTEP as a Hispanic serving institution and El Paso being Hispanic in population maybe diminishes queer culture here so it’s important to view the art that was in the themes of being queer and Mexican since it is different being queer and White,” Sarinana said. “A view of the pieces touch on that so I thought that was beautiful and you see the Hispanic community also embrace their intersectionality.”

With pride flags in people’s hands, the exhibit displayed a pride flag allowing attendees to write and leave sentimental notes among the art listed at the gallery, artist José Montoya had a few of his pieces shown.     

Proud and open about his sexuality, Montoya recalls his personal experiences and the taboo conversations regarding his sexuality with his culture and family. Working with art to express his authentic self, he considers the exhibition a gateway for viewers to catch a small glimpse of his experiences.    

“There are still a lot of taboo conversations in the Hispanic community sometimes revolving around LGBTQ+ identity and I am a perfect example of that, my sexuality is not a secret but because of my family it’s something that we don’t talk about,” Montoya said. “Those conversations go under the table, they don’t even exist. That’s my experience so I want to be there for people who grew up like me and didn’t have an outlet.”    

An El Paso born artist and member of the LGBTQ+ community, Daniel Gutierrez, started drawing and painting when they were a kid. With one of their pieces highlighted at the gallery, Gutierrez considers the exhibition essential to highlight the representation within the community.   

“I feel good that this is happening because I studied in a catholic school for twelve years, so this kind of thing didn’t happen at my school,” Gutierrez said. “I think it’s important to do these kinds of events so we can show people that we not just the stereotypes.”  

Crafting their work in January, a time of feeling lost with their identity and dealing with depression, Gutierrez’s work is proudly displayed at the gallery amongst the LGBTQ+ artists having their stories and voices seen in a creative and safe space.   

Through this gallery, the El Paso community can reflect on some of the struggles and hardships LGBTQ+ people have experienced, all with different voices and stories to share. This event allows for that gateway of knowledge and celebration to happen. The university will have another event Oct. 11 for National Coming Out Day, open for the community to see and hear more unique stories within the borderland.  

Erik Acosta is the web and copy editor and may be reached at [email protected] 

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About the Contributors
Erik Acosta
Erik Acosta, Editor-in-Chief
Erik Acosta is the editor-in-chief for The Prospector. He is a senior majoring in multimedia journalism with a minor in theatre. He plans to pursue a career in broadcast journalism and print with hopes of working at LA times, Washington Post and ABC News.
Joel Molina
Joel Molina, Photo Editor
Joel is a graduate creative writing student at the University of Texas at El Paso. He is the photo editor who began his career at The Prospector in 2022. He hopes to continue providing the world and its people with different forms of storytelling that will hopefully make their day to day lives better.
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