This time last year, the Hispanic Federation created FUERZAfest to commemorate the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, and foster conversations about issues faced by the queer Latinx community. About a month after, the tragic Pulse shooting happened in Orlando, where 36 of the 49 nightclub victims were Latinx and LGBTQ.
Now, almost a year later, FUERZAfest returns for a second round to empower its community in a political era that actively keeps Latinx people on the fringes.
Related | OUT100: The Survivors & Heroes Of Pulse
Included in its 2017 programming is an interdisciplinary art exhibit, called Still Here, which runs through May 21 and focuses on the erasure and marginalization of Latinx LGBTQ identities. Dialogue surrounding Pulse remains at its core, highlighting how the shooting's mainstream narrative underplayed its cultural ties to Florida's Latinx community. Still Here also reflects on this year's festival theme, "Breaking Down Walls," as artists individually define and destroy social constructs around gender identity, from the personal to the political.
"Under FUERZAfest's theme, 'Breaking Down Walls,' we not only [saw] it as a violent act of destroying, but as what happens to the rubble and who's responsible for rebuilding the rubble," said Sofía Reeser del Río, co-curator of Still Here. "We really thought [about] what walls means, the president's meaning of wall and how artificial walls holding up structures [can] have value and in this space, create community. What we wanted to show were artists that are taking part of the building."
Though Still Here is a response to tragedy, the exhibit also serves as a united declaration of Latinx pride, allowing queer artists to celebrate their culture, remember their history and usher in a new era of Latinx identity in America. Especially under President Trump's hate-mongering administration, such resilience and Latinx visibility is essential, forcing the public to engage in stories unlike their own and become more aware of today's intersectional issues.
"Still Here is a conversation we have to continue having in regards to representation," said Richard Morales, co-curator of Still Here. "Oftentimes, we are not represented in these art spaces. One of the main things that influenced us was to be able to walk into a space to see art or see stories that reflect those LGBTQ and Latino experiences. We wanted to talk about these bodies that are not represented in the art world."