At a time when Latinx and LGBTQ communities are under massive attack, FUERZAfest is creating a space where queer and trans brown people can come together to celebrate one another, enjoy each other's brilliance in art, dance and cinema and engage in much-needed political and social dialogue.
On Wednesday, the festival kicked off its 12-day event at the Julia de Burgos Latino Cultural Center in New York. This year’s theme is “breaking down walls,” which FUERZAfest’s director and head curator Mario Colón says speaks to various aspects of the queer Latinx experience.
“In our current political climate, if you are Latino, you’ve been targeted from the beginning, but if you are LGBT, everything for you is being challenged. If you have the trifecta of being Latino, LGBT and undocumented, you’re being hit from so many directions,” Colón, vice president of special events at the Hispanic Federation, which organizes FUERZAfest, told us.
The festival, which launched last May, takes place each spring in New York and fall in Orlando, Fla. This week’s celebration commenced with a morning panel on queer and trans Latinx visibility, with panelists Ricardo Negrón, a survivor of the Pulse tragedy, transgender rights activist Cecilia Gentili, queer Latina writer Gabby Rivera and AIDS activist Rubén Ríos Vergara each offering different points of views and experiences on the issues. Later in the day, organizers introduced its “Still Here” art exhibit, curated by Sofía Reeser del Río and Richard Morales, and a screening of the film "Forbidden: Undocumented and Queer in Rural America" followed by a conversation with featured activist Moisés Serrano.
“The FUERZAfest is a celebration of the Latino-Latinx-Latina LGBT community. To me, it is a quintessential moment to honor the work that we create and the beautiful heritage that we carry with us as LGBTQ Latinos,” Rivera, a Boricua who writes the new Marvel comic “America,” said.
Throughout the festival, participants will enjoy free film screenings of projects from Latin America, including Chile, Argentina, Puerto Rico and Mexico, live theater performances and even a dance extravaganza. After all, as Colón says, “when you combine art and the LGBT community, everything is a party.”
But it’s not just about having a good time. It’s also a moment to unite and acknowledge the devastating stigma, inequities and violence impacting the community. On May 17, the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, the festival will take time to remember the 49 people killed at Pulse night club in Orlando almost one year ago.
While FUERZAfest is about celebration, it’s also about finding the strength to conquer the battles ahead.
“I get my fuerza from my own community. I wouldn’t be here without them,” Gentili, an Argentine assistant director of public affairs at GMHC, said.
Find the festival’s full schedule over at FUERZAfest’s website.