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120 In September 1984, a delegation of eighteen women called Somos Hermanas (“we are sisters”) traveled from San Francisco to Nicaragua to learn about women’s experiences in the Sandinista Revolution and to link feminist organizing in the two countries. Somos Hermanas was a project of the Alliance Against Women’s Oppression, an offshoot of the 1970s Third World Women’s Alliance that now housed itself in the San Francisco Women’s Building. Reflecting those networks, a strong majority of Somos Hermanas delegates were women of color (principally Latina and Chicana but also black and Asian) and half were lesbian or bisexual.1 The group’s members cited their racial, gender, and sexual identities to explain their support for revolutionary Nicaragua, defining themselves not only as opponents of US intervention but also as fellow victims of President Reagan. More informally, they declared their sexual diversity when their Nicaraguan hosts threw a party for them and a delegation of Cuban musicians. As Somos Hermanas member Carmen Vázquez recalls, she and her fellow delegate Lucrecia Bermudez began to dance together, and the Cuban men—motivated seemingly by anxiety as much as chivalry—“came to help us out” by offering to dance. Faced with this offer, “Lucrecia and I looked at each other. I mean, Lucrecia’s a butch, too, but whatever. And said, ‘No, thank you,’ . . . so, then it was clear women were going to dance.”2 Although Vázquez and Bermudez were not interested in each other, their pairing and their gender expressions challenged heterosexual norms. Their “No, thank you” chapter 5 Talk About Loving in the War Years Nicaragua, Transnational Feminism, and AIDS Talk About Loving in the War Years | 121 opened the door for other members of Somos Hermanas to dance together that night, whether as friends, in flirtation, or as potential lovers . Indeed, the evening sparked a new relationship by emboldening Vázquez to ask another Somos Hermanas participant, Marcia Gallo, “‘Would you dance?’ and she did and we danced right off the floor into the woods and had wild, you know, making out sessions that didn’t stop for twelve years . . . talk about loving in the war years.”3 In recalling that night, Vázquez self-consciously echoed the title of Cherríe Moraga’s Loving in the War Years (1983), in which Moraga continued the theorizations that she had begun in the anthology she coedited with Gloria Anzaldúa, This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color (1981).4 Loving and Bridge were central in theorizing “women of color” as an identity of multiracial solidarity grounded in antiimperialist liberation.5 Loving also tied lesbian feminism to Central American solidarity in multiple ways, among them by describing romance born in wartime. In the book’s title poem, two women fall in love against the sound of “bombs,” as if in a scene from the film Casablanca: “I do think of Bogart & Bergman / not clear who’s who.”6 Similarly, Vázquez’s relationship with Gallo began amidst contra attacks on Sandinista forces. At moments on the Somos Hermanas trip when she and Gallo began to be intimate, they either heard gunshots or were warned that, by going outside to find privacy, they risked meeting violence. In Vázquez’s words, “It just doesn’t get more intense than that.”7 Vázquez’s reference to Moraga hints at tensions that structured lesbian and gay solidarity with Central America. At points, Moraga’s Loving suggests that lesbian identity is itself a “front” in a war, and her title poem contends that “being queer / and female / is as warrior / as we can get.”8 In this line, she risks collapsing highly distinct struggles into one metaphor. Yet later in Loving Moraga doubles back to resist such slippages , arguing both that “the danger lies in ranking the oppressions” and that “the danger lies in failing to acknowledge the specificity of the oppressions.”9 Moraga’s claims raise questions about how lesbian and gay radicals understood the differences among the forms of violence and injustice that inspired their solidarity with Central America. What did sexual politics and sexual identities mean amidst the Sandinista Revolution and the contra war? More pointedly, how might the answers have varied between the United States and Nicaragua? Transnational feminist analysis recognizes that colonialism, imperialism , and anti-colonial and anti-imperialist movements have constructed multiple, often divergent experiences of gender and sexuality around the 122 | Talk About Loving in the...


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