Since the scholarship that exists on lesbian organizing in the Midwest neglects to engage with the history of Latina lesbian organizing, this project focuses on Latina lesbians as agents of change and active subjects of a multiracial history of grass-roots organizing. I explore the history of two organizations in Chicago — LLENA, an activist organization that existed from 1988 to 1992, and Amigas Latinas, a Latina lesbian, bisexual, and transgender advocacy organization that was founded in 1995 and is still in existence. My analysis is based on oral interviews, participant observation, archival records (minutes, flyers, newsletters, letters, and financial papers), and media accounts in the Chicago gay press. I describe the founding of LLENA and Amigas Latinas, their efforts to create Latina lesbian visibility in both the “Latino” and “lesbian” social and political cultures of Chicago, and their successful and unsuccessful attempts to negotiate divergent national and ethnic histories, class and linguistic differences, and the diverse political stances of their membership. I also look at the coalition-building politics that the two organizations established with other Latino and queer communities in Chicago and internationally, their strategies for sustainability, and their enduring contributions. I argue that through small and large accomplishments, both LLENA and Amigas Latinas advance significant cultural and political change in the Chicago area. The collective effort of Latina lesbians to create and occupy public spaces is inherently political and has forever altered the mainstream LGBT and Latino communities in Chicago.
1 April 2014
Siobhan B Somerville
Martin F. Manalansan
Lourdes Torres; Compañeras in the Middle: Toward a History of Latina Lesbian Organizing in Chicago. GLQ 1 April 2014; 20 (1-2): 41–74. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10642684-2370360
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