Ambiente is both space and culture, geography, and aesthetics. It is a drag queen outside of Esta Noche in 1993 lighting a cigarette, it is Teresita La Campesina giving a speech on safe sex and immigration, it is the Pan Dulce Latin music events, the zine publications “MariLes” and “A la Brava…”.
For decades, Ambiente has served as a coded word for queer latinos, both in Latin America and in the U.S., as a way to identify our own: our own maricas, patas, jotos, lesbianas y locas. It is a way of recognizing each other both as queer and as latinos. This exhibition is a glimpse into the life of LGBT Latinos in San Francisco from the late 1970s to the 1990s. It is a small window focusing on AIDS activism, drag performance and “Ambiente.”
Curated by Juliana Delgado Lopera and Angel Rafael “Ralph” Vázquez-Concepción, the exhibition brings together diverse documents, images, and videos from the GLBT Historical Society’s archives and materials contributed by community members to summon the protective embrace that welcomed many Latinx people into the queer fold.
Delgado Lopera first learned the word from her “queer mother,” Adela Vázquez, a woman who told her stories that “opened an underground world of queer Latinidad invisible to the public eye. Through Adela she met many queer Latinos active during the 80s and 90s, some even became part of her chosen family. “I’m committed to the unearthing and preservation of their stories because they’re part of me, they created openings for me to exist.”
A note from the curators: we’ve unearthed the ghosts of our queer past from forgotten boxes in attics, basements, closets. This exhibition could not have been possible without the generous contribution of the latino community. Most of the items presented here are personal mementos saved in photo albums, boxes and folders by people who played a crucial role in building community during those times.
Lenders include: Laura Lazo-Brown, Lito Sandoval, Valentín Aguirre, Adela Vázquez, Juan Alberto Tam, Nelson D’Alerta, Patricia Murillo, Augie Robles, Juana Maña Rodríguez, Jesse James Johnson, and the GLBT Historical Society Archives
Here are some images from the exhibition installation and a few highlights of items you’ll be able to see in the exhibition: