Updates and Documenting Borderlands Queer Culture

“You know what’s a good life? When you go out in public, and people are happy to see you. ‘Qué onda, como estás?’ Gusto en verte. Money can’t buy that.” Pinky Torres

Most places I go, I feel this…people genuinely happy to see each other.  In these borderlands, I gravitate to places like Chuco’s Barrio Duranguito, Chiquita’s, The ToolBox and the hidden roads in the South Valley of Doña Ana County, NM. It’s in the same places where I have found community, laughed, shared some chismes and got inspired.

I’m over the moon in gratitude to folks like Hector “Big D” Hernández for opening a space up for me to vend at Chiquita’s, Dr. Yolanda “Fierce Fronteriza” Leyva for keeping an eye out for me, and La Semilla Food Center for the opportunity of being a fellow with the Chihuahuan Desert Cultural Fellowship. To anyone who offered a meal, the occasional place to crash through my nomadic season, commissioned me, bought prints or t-shirts—thank you.  I am forever indebted. (click on picture for captions)

I designed a queer project and proposed it to La Semilla that would allow me to create art inspired by a historical community narrative. Over the past few months, I interviewed 15 people who self-identified as part of the borderland LGBTQ community prior to the dawn of social media. I heard stories of real strife, but I did not set out to document trauma because, to me, that would be obvious. I focused on a collective consciousness and memory on the joy queer spaces embody.  More importantly, it has allowed me to work on my own trauma: to lick my wounds and move forward in the most authentic way I can. This project is not nearly done, and I will continue to interview, collect stories, and work on art.

LGBTQ+ Texas Heroes Playing Cards. Dr. Yolanda Leyva and I both received this recognition.

These days I’m holding up my queerness as a badge of honor. I was honored as a Texas LGBTQ Hero from the Borderland Rainbow Center (and created some of the art used for this project), assisted PFLAG Las Cruces in updating their website as a community resource, and participated in various pride events throughout the Paso del Norte region. I also painted live for the Fine Art Flea Market in downtown Las Cruces. I am leaving my very gay mark in the frontera, but also in different places. A big shoutout to Tacoma Community College for having me present on my work and to facilitate a workshop on community art building.  I am ready for more of this, and I am available for hire.   

“The Land Protector” painted for La Semilla’s Farm Fellowship Evaluation.

I am peeling off the layers of 2023, ready to see what is in store for me and to continue creating art within community. I’m ready for a little bit of magic because it is a cathartic release of energy when generational curses (or trauma) have been broken, deactivated, and denounced. All that dark energy has been returned because, after all, every action in this world has a reaction—now reciprocated and reverberated and that’s how it works.  

PS. The quote taken at top is from my friend Pinky Torres who grew up in El Paso’s Segundo Barrio. He tells me interesting crazy stories and teaches me Caló. Many thanks to him, his wife Isela and daughter Yadira for always feeding me!

  • Identity, Culture and Community workshops at Tacoma Community College
  • Diosa vibes

Key takeaways from the last few years:

  • Anger is an emotion that we are afraid to understand, but anger is often justified.  Find creative/artistic ways to deal with that anger.
  • I think the best way to understand happiness is the feeling of joy. 
  • Don’t force things.
  • Some people just won’t change. Move on.
  • If grassroots have hierarchy, it’s not grassroots.
  • Just because someone helps you out (financially or otherwise) does not give them power over you. 
  • Don’t be a stranger to the concept of reciprocity.  Behave accordingly.

Published by artedemontoya

Artist, educator and activist living in the Texas/New Mexico/Chihuahua tri-state area.

2 thoughts on “Updates and Documenting Borderlands Queer Culture

  1. Such encouraging content amigosh! All the places you’ve been and all the places you are yet to visit and make your beautiful mark! Thank you for continuing to represent and fight for our community in every aspect! Que corazon tan bravo y lindo!

    Liked by 1 person

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