Wingspan's Puertas Abiertas has become more than a social and outreach project for Tucson's LGBT Latin community.
For the past four years, through special projects and its annual Latin@ LGBT Pride Week, Puertas Abiertas has brought immigration and other issues involving Latinos front and center in the LGBT community.
Longtime community volunteer Jerry Che Diaz has been involved in helping organize several Latin@ LGBT Pride weeks, and other events working with local groups like Derechos Humanos, No More Deaths and Casa Mariposa, as well as local DREAMers.
"There are people in the LGBT community who often don't know what's going on in immigration," Diaz says, explaining why he and other Puertas Abiertas volunteers like to get involved in those issues and present them to the LGBT and greater community as often as possible.
Because of its affiliation with Wingspan, Diaz says it's also important that the project be seen as a bridge when LGBT Latinos come forward needing help with immigration and detention issues. "We have those relationships to send people where they can get what they need. Those connections are important."
And the group has been instrumental in bringing together the greater Latino community, such as with the coming-out dance parties at La Cocina, which Diaz said have become an important gathering spot for Tucson's activist community.
But it's during Latin@ Pride Week, held every September, that Puertas Abiertas celebrates those connections for an entire week, unlike Tucson's one-day Pride event and parade held in October.
This year, the week starts with a Mr. and Mrs. Latin@ LGBTQ Pride Pageant at 6 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 14, at IBT's, 616 N. Fourth Ave. There is a suggested $5 donation (to compete in the pageant, email Alex Lopez at email@example.com).
On Sunday, Sept. 15, the Dia de Familia/Family Day Picnic will start at 4:30 p.m. at 317 W. 23rd St. It's being held in collaboration with the immigrant rights group Corazon de Tucson. The event is free and family friendly.
Art and activism collide on Monday, Sept. 16, with a free LGBTQ and allies art exhibition, Somos, Viva Los Queer! at Studio One, 197 E. Toole Ave. (Email art submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org.).
At 7 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 17, Margarita, an award-winning film by Dominique Cardona and Laurie Colbert, will be screened at Fluxx Studio and Gallery, 414 E. Ninth St. It's a family drama seen through the eyes of Margarita, an undocumented nanny and lesbian living in Canada and dealing with social injustice and immigration policies. The event is hosted by Beverly Seckinger of the Lesbian Looks film series.
Also on Tuesday, Sept. 17, is Botanas! from 3 to 6 p.m. as part of the EON Youth program at Wingspan, 430 E. Seventh St.
At 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 18, Food Truck ... Drag will begin at the Steinfeld Warehouse, 101 W. Sixth St. An LGBT drag performance will be paired with edibles from Tucson food trucks. Also collaborating on the event are the Warehouse Arts Management Organization and Dinnerware Artspace.
The celebration heads back to Fluxx at 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 19, for a Latin@ Pride Odyssey Storytelling event, Tradiciones y Transiciones/Traditions and Transitions. A $7 donation is suggested. The event will be hosted by Diaz, and seven community members (including this reporter) will share their stories.
The celebration ends on Friday, Sept. 20, with El Tambo: Cumbia y Mas, starting at 9 p.m. at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St. The event is hosted by DJ Dirtyverbs and Diaz, and will include the Quita Penas band from California, burlesque from Lola Torch and more. The 21-and-older show is $5 at the door.
Diaz says he still gets asked why Tucson needs a Latin@ Pride Week—as though it divides the community rather than unites it—but all he has to do is look at the audience during the events to know that it brings people together.
"We invite everyone to participate and learn about our culture," Diaz says.
Paco Velez, a bilingual Wingspan anti-violence advocate, has been working with Puertos Abiertas and this is his second year helping with Latin@ Pride Week. Velez agrees with Diaz that the events and activities have focused on community issues and creating more partnerships with other agencies and allies in the community.
"A great example is the brunch bingo we did with Casa Mariposa. That day, half our proceeds went to helping LGBT undocumented," Velez says.
What Velez also likes about Latin@ Pride Week is that there's something for everyone. "I'm particularly excited about this week. It's already taken a life of its down. I want this to continue and I think this will now become a Tucson staple."
Why Latin-specific pride? Velez says that when you're at the events, it's easy to see what the community needs. And because a large part of Tucson's LGBT community is Latino, it makes sense to celebrate their presence.
"I think that it's important to celebrate who we are, and Tucson lends itself to it as well," he says.
The fact that the week is held in September is also significant, he says, because many Latin-American countries celebrate their independence days this month.
"It helps us embrace everybody in our community even more," he says.