Queer Voices on Orlando: Latin Night at the Pulse

In the early hours of Sunday, June 12, word began to spread of the latest mass shooting: a lone gunman had entered a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida and killed 50 people, with another 53 injured. Over the next few days, as the national conversation moved on to the implications of this attack for terrorism, gun control, and the American election, queer communities around the world remained shaken by this horrifying act of hate.

Electric City Magazine reached out to a number of local queer writers and activists to hear their perspective on the issue. We’ve shared Cathy Petch’s poem “50 Radical Acts of Love,” Angela Semple’s “how to support me today,” and B Mroz’s “I Wear Pink Shoes,” and today Trent professor Karleen Pendleton Jiménez reflects on the attack from a queer Latina perspective.

1. Is it wrong to think of how good-looking they were? Young queers of colour. Surely some of the most gorgeous people in the world. Did he hurt them precisely because they were pretty? Like an angry kid who rips the petals from a daisy, as its golden face warms in the sun.

2. What wrecked me were the pictures of parents. Middle-aged Puertorriqueño couples, hunched over sobbing. I turned away. Can’t handle the idea of someone’s baby being murdered. Hold my own so tight.

3. Our people have survived migration, deportation, hateful propositions, pesticide, zootsuit riots, segregated schools, gang violence, wholesale incarceration, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, Cortez, the colonization of the Americas. Mass murder at Latin night? Are you fucking kidding me?

4. Latin Night at the Pulse
I think of bein’ 18. Berkeley, 1990. Her hair under my nose. The first floor dorm room. 5 of us danced cumbias half the night. Tried to get the guts to come out. She said it first, then I wrote it. We all got scared.

I followed after an older butch. A house party. The Mission District. A handsome 25 year old Chicana. Black A-shirt, no bra, a girlfriend who leaned over her and kissed. I wanted it. I wanted to kiss a girl so badly.

The MC at the Mujeres and Marcha Event was surely a lesbian. Her husky Spanglish.
The sparkle in her eye.

The young men in Chicano theatre 401 feared for their lives. They mourned their brothers dying of AIDS. Twice the rate of the white guys.

I rolled around with my first girlfriend. A living room floor. A boom box. The Gypsy Kings covering our sounds.

Sandra and Adriana dancing like a river
Natashia with poetry that could cut your heart out
Lisa and Vikki and Liz hangin’ at the women’s centre
Linda and Alma beating on each other cuz it was still too hard
Drama Divas taking the stage
Chili D playing the soundtrack

to our young queer Latin@ lives
“They were all there,” my girlfriend reminds me.
Years later when we stopped by. All the friends in my Berkeley stories were there. I could find them, one by one. Make proper introductions. A whole community in a bar. A history of our lives documented. Each Latin night.
5. Cherríe taught us to dream Queer Aztlán*
A place where our queer Latin@ bodies would be

Queer Aztlán
I dreamt you tonight
on a dance floor in heaven

*Moraga, C. (1993). Queer Aztlán: The Re-Formation of Chicano Tribe. In The Last Generation: Prose and Poetry (pp. 145-74). Boston: South End Press.

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Karleen Pendleton Jiménez

Karleen Pendleton Jiménez

Karleen Pendleton Jiménez is a writer and professor at Trent University. After Berkeley, she joined Latina/o queer communities in San Diego, Toronto, and across the continent at National Association of Chicana and Chicano Studies conferences.