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“Fuck That Fag Shit, Take That To The Castro”: The Politics of Space and Place in Manuel Paul’s Queer Latinx Mural, “Por Vida”

  • Author(s): Carrillo, Vicente
  • Advisor(s): Gaspar de Alba, Alicia
  • et al.
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Across the US, Chicana/o and Latina/o murals have served as artistic landmarks commemorating Chicana/o and Latina/o culture, history and identity. These murals, however, are predominantly heteronormative representations of Chicana/o culture and history. What happens, therefore, when queer Latinx and Chicanx artists use muralism to express their intersectional identities? This project focuses on the digital queer mural, Por Vida, designed by Los Angeles based artist Paul Manuel, installed June 13, 2015 on 24th and Bryant Street in San Francisco’s Mission District in celebration of Pride Month. Just days after its installation, the mural was defaced multiple times, three times spray-painted, the fourth time incinerated. After the defacements, community tensions rose among local and non-local Mission District residents. To this day, the identity of individual(s) behind the violent vandalism are still unknown.

In this project, I explore what I identify as the “contested conversations” regarding Por Vida’s defacements between local and non-local residents. From over 230 Instagram comments, I identify five different types of arguments within these online conversations which include, 1) Cultural Gatekeepers of "The Cholo" 2) Spatial Entitlement 3) Gentrification Activism 4) Pro-LGBTQ and 5) Latinx Pro-LGBTQ. Drawing from queer of color critique, spatial theory, whiteness studies, and women of color feminism, I explore these contested debates, along with the Mission District’s cultural and spatial relationship to Por Vida’s installation. Using this analytics lens, I highlight and challenge the pervasive forms of whiteness in mainstream LGBTQ representation that, I argue, ultimately erase queer of color identities or “brown” pride (Mu�oz). Rainbow capitalism is a racial social project that informs spatial imaginations, producing territorial boundaries (cultural and spatial) that intentionally exclude queer of color bodies. I argue that the censorship of the Por Vida mural reinforces rainbow capitalism’s project of erasure–a project reaffirming queerness as a social identity belonging only to that of white, wealthier queer subjects. Indeed, I aim to question the “gentrification argument,” pointing to instead the white gay subject’s universal or dominant socio-spatial relationship to queer of color bodies and claims to safe spaces such as “gayborhoods.”

Through a queer of color spatial critique, I discovered that the anti-gentrification sentiments from local Mission District residents, while they openly resist against the displacement of low-income families of color, also simultaneously observe Por Vida’s representation of queer of color intimacy as a symptom of gentrification. Interviews revealed that these sentiments are rooted in homophobic and transphobic attitudes but also territorial entitlements that continuously marginalize queer and trans bodies of color. I argue that Por Vida’s representation of queer Latinx intimacy is an active disruption to public space’s heteronormative social values of respectability and domesticity, that also render visible the pervasive homophobic and transphobic attitudes still informing Latina/o communities even as they support anti-racist, anti-displacement activism.

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This item is under embargo until August 7, 2020.