- October 12, 2017
Post submitted by Milagros Chirinos, HRC Bilingual Media Manager-Spanish
José Gutiérrez has been working as an LGBTQ rights and AIDS activist for nearly his entire adult life. His volunteer career helping LGBTQ people living with HIV and AIDS began in Atlanta, where he moved from Mexico in the 1980s.
Since relocating to Washington D.C. more than two decades ago, Gutiérrez has become a renowned supporter and advocate for human and LGBTQ rights. As a member of the LGBTQ community, and living with HIV, Gutiérrez has an acute understanding and sensitivity to the specific cultural and sociopolitical obstacles faced by these groups.
Gutiérrez founded the Latino GLBT History Project and organized the first DC Latino Pride, reflecting his recognition of need to preserve the history of the Latinx community, and its importance to the broader LGBTQ fight in the country. His love for and commitment to the Latinx LGBTQ community inspired him to create the José Gutiérrez Collection, an art collection that features different historical articles compiled at LGBTQ events since the 1980s.
His collection keeps alive the engagement and contributions of the Latinx-LGBTQ people. Through the multiple exhibits of his pieces, Gutiérrez aims to educate the community and honor its fight for equality.
HRC sat down recently with Gutiérrez to talk about his advocacy work, art collection and Hispanic Heritage Month.
Why is it important to maintain the historical memory of the Latinx LGBTQ movement?
The contributions of Latinx-LGBTQ groups in the country are an intrinsic part of our heritage. The historical memory of our community is very rich in the participation of great leaders, activists and pioneers; therefore, it is essential to keep it alive and to educate our new generations about the struggle we have been through, our participation in the movement and the progress we have made.
Which Latin American figures have influenced your work as an activist?
In my career as an activist and as a historian of our Latinx LGBTQ community there have been many people who have left a mark in my life, such as José Sarria, Sylvia Rivera, César Chávez, Dolores Huerta and Nicole Murray-Ramírez. All of them worked tirelessly to be visible and taken into account, making the Latino population an important part of the fight for equality in all the arenas.
How did you come up with the idea of creating a Latinx historical collection?
I have always loved history. When I moved to D.C. in 1993, I joined the National March for Lesbian and Gay Rights for the first time and soon after I began to attend almost all the community gatherings. I kept and purchased articles from all the events, so much so that they started to feel as part of my home decor. The invitations to be part of exhibits and conferences followed soon after. My collection inspired by the D.C. Latinx LGBTQ community is one of the largest in the country and consists of photographs, posters, flyers, flags, books, costumes, buttons, crowns and more. The pieces are actually the living memory of many Latinx and LGBTQ groups, organizations, leaders and beauty queens, whose work has contributed and supported our community.
What is the best part of working for the Latinx, LGBTQ and HIV communities?
Having the opportunity to serve them is an honor. To educate and help these communities is a noble cause and a much-needed effort in times like these. My greatest satisfaction is the smile and the gratitude of our people. Thanks to their support, I have organized more than 35 historical exhibitions and presentations about our community history. I am very proud of this achievement and eternally grateful for having the chance to be part of this communities.
As we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, what makes you proud of being Latinx?
There are many reasons why I am proud to be part of this community. Some of them go back to our cultural roots, our language, our food, our people and also our leaders. An important part of that pride is based primarily on those Latino leaders, activists and citizens, who struggle everyday to help our movement and fight for human rights in order to make a better world.
HRC is proud to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month and honors the contributions of many Latinx members of the community, whose work has helped make the LGBTQ a better and stronger movement for equality.