- Gay Latino Studies: A Critical Reader
In “Re-membering Gay Latino Studies,” editors Michael Hames-García and Ernesto Javier Martínez begin their introduction to Gay Latino Studies: A Critical Reader by citing Gloria Anzaldúa, who, in her influential Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza, urges readers to not forget gay Chicano men. Anzaldúa’s entreaty constituted a crucial reaching out to her gay compañeros de armas, and the editors acknowledge this, asserting that feminist volumes such as Borderlands have “spoken to gay men and represented our interests broadly speaking” (2). Hames-García and Martínez reflect that many gay Latino men “have not only found political company” in a lesbian feminist legacy of writing; they have experienced it to be “life-sustaining” as well. As a next step, however, the editors proceed to frame their project as one that is less about not forgetting gay Latino men than about gay men “actively ‘re-membering’” and “recogniz[ing]” each other (M. Jacqui Alexander qtd. in Hames-García and Martínez 3).
The project here is not merely remembering, which might be simply elegiac, but defining, rejoining, and repopulating gay Latino culture as well as recollecting it; the editors consider a critical aspect of re-membering to involve suturing “a coalitional body that has been dis-membered by a history of ideological violence.” In this sense, the volume has a corrective function. It unites a varied array of writing in ways that reveal important relationships among texts, and by “piecing together” ostensibly disparate works, the editors begin “repopulating that which some would argue has never been (‘gay Latino studies’),” thereby addressing a persistent but erroneous belief that there is a paucity of writings produced by and about gay Latino men. Ultimately, in this regard, the volume aims to elucidate a rich history and an ongoing narrative of cultural production that highlights “the specificity of gay Latino men’s lives, experience, and knowledge” (4). Comprised of new and previously published essays, Gay Latino Studies presents work that spans a variety of disciplines, varies in form and in methodological approach (from literary criticism and sociological studies to personal narratives), and treats myriad subjects. For example, Richard [End Page 228] T. Rodríguez analyzes how the lowrider magazine Firme functioned as a forum in the early 1980s for working-class Chicano communities to have conversations about gay identity, Horacio N. Roque Ramírez examines the appropriation of gay Latino group identity by corporate interests in ways that both claim and disclaim that identity, and essays by David Román and Ramón H. Rivera-Servera argue for the importance of dance and club scenes in producing agency and feelings of community in queer Latino subjects.
This volume works against what the editors describe as “whitewashing tendencies” in much queer academic theorizing (11). In fact, Hames-García’s own contribution, “Queer Theory Revisited,” provides the theoretical grounding for the essays that follow. Interrogating a central contention of queer theory, that the category “queer” is especially efficacious for “transgressing boundaries, identities, and subject positions,” he argues that the claim actually disguises queer theory’s “dependence on an unacknowledged white racial identity” (21). The volume as a whole becomes a critical counternarrative, not simply in terms of addressing subjects and subject positions often overlooked by many scholars of the queer theoretical center but also in terms of its dialogical structure. The book is constructed as a series of dialogues in which a critical comment follows each essay. The most productive exchanges, such as “Our Queer Kin,” Luz Calvo and Catrióna Rueda Esquibel’s response to Antonio Viego’s reprinted “The Place of Gay Male Chicano Literature in Queer Chicana/o Cultural Work,” or “Dancing with the Devil—When the Devil Is Gay,” Paula M. L. Moya’s response to Martínez’s original contribution, “Shifting the Site of Queer Enunciation: Manuel Muñoz and the Politics of Form,” not only critique the...