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6: Jotería Studies

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    Learning Objectives


    When most students learn about jotería studies for the first time, they are surprised that it is even a thing. Often they say, “isn’t jotería a negative or derogatory word?” Or they will say with some confusion that they have only ever heard joto used as a way to offend someone or call them gay. None of those responses are surprising or incorrect. Jotería, joto, and jota have been used, and continue to be used, in negative and derisive ways in the United States, Mexico, and other Latin American countries. However, like the word Chicano or queer, which were reclaimed as part of social justice activism, joto, jota, and jotería, have been reclaimed, redefined, and resignified as empowering terms for many people who find pride and strength in their queer, trans, Chicanx and Latinx identities.1

    Not only have folks reclaimed these words, but there is an entire field of studies called jotería studies and a national organization called the Association for Jotería Arts, Activism, and Scholarship (AJAAS) created in the 2010s that has helped shape the field.2 Courses are being taught in jotería studies at colleges and universities near you, you can find merchandise with the words jotx written on it, and students and activists are seeing themselves represented more in more and more spaces. None of this would have been possible, however, without the activism of trans and queer Chicanxs and Latinxs and other people of color who have fought for visibility, representation, and basic human rights.

    In her 1987 book Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza, Chicana lesbian author, philosopher, poet, and independent scholar, Gloria Anzaldúa wrote, “People listen to what your jotería is saying,” meaning that cisgender heterosexual Chicanas and Chicanos needed to pay attention to what queer members of the Chicanx community were saying.3  It has taken a long time, but folks are now paying attention. Privileging some of those jotería voices, this chapter traces the genealogy of jotería as an identity and epistemology (way of thinking and knowing) and of the field of jotería studies, which is indebted to Chicana feminisms, women of color feminists, Chicanx studies, ethnic studies, and activism for women’s, queer, and trans rights. The chapter highlights topics such as jotería education, pedagogy, activism, art, nightlife, spirituality, sex, and others, and how jotería as a community and as an academic field have paved an innovative and transformative path for thinking about the intersections of gender, race, and sexuality in Chicanx and Latinx communities. This is only an introduction as there is so much more to cover than these pages permit. But we hope this sparks your interest and you continue to learn about jotería!

    • 6.1: Reclaiming Jota/o/x and Jotería
      This section focuses on the etymology of the words jota and jota, discussing the derogatory aspects of the words as well as how they have been reclaimed by Chicanx and Latinx queer folks. The section also provides a definition of joteria, especially as defined by the Association for Joteria Arts, Activism and Scholarship (AJAAS), and gives examples of artists who use these terms in empowering ways.
    • 6.2: Genealogy of Jotería Studies
      Section 6.2 engages with the genealogy of jotería studies as an intersectional and feminist academic field which although relatively new, can be traced back to early work of ethnic studies and Chicanx studies and gay, lesbian, gender non-conforming, and trans artists, activists, and scholars of the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, including Chicana feminists, third world (women of color) feminists, Chicana lesbian feminists, and trans feministas.
    • 6.3: Jotería Activism Past and Present
      This section explores the interconnected social justice movements in which jotería have participated in and fought for change. It discusses jotería’s specific involvement in movements in early gay and lesbian Latinx organizations like Gay and Lesbian Latinos Unidos (GLLU), the struggle against the AIDS epidemic, the development of AJAAS, immigrant rights organizing, and more.
    • 6.4: Jotería Frameworks and Scholarly Conversations
      Section 6.4 introduces various jotería perspectives and theories around identity and consciousness, healing, the body, communication, language and the environment. The section lays out how these frameworks and scholarly conversations stem from lived experiences and collective struggles, and how these have shaped the field of jotería studies.
    • 6.5: Jotería Aesthetics and Cultural Production
      This section argues that jotería cultural production (visual art, literature, film, social media) have been an integral part of the development of jotería studies. Artists and cultural producers have used visual and literary language to subvert norms and resist homophobic, transphobic, and gender exclusionary narratives and iconography. It also looks at the role of sound as a viable method of analysis and maps out future directions for the field.
    • 6.6: Conclusion


    1 Maricón is another derogatory word in the US, Mexico, Cuba, and other parts of Latin America, that has been reclaimed by many and has been used in art and literature as a banner of pride like Joteria See this article by Ernesto Cuba on the use of the word maricón.

    2 As discussed later in the chapter, AJAAS was formed when members of the National Association for Chicana and Chicano Studies (NACCS), Joto Caucus (Gay men’s caucus) and Lesbian, Bi, Mujeres, Trans Caucus, and community members, decided to create their own organization. 

    3 Gloria Anzaldua, Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza. (San Francisco: Aunt Lute Books, 1987), 107.

    This page titled 6: Jotería Studies is shared under a CC BY-NC 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Eddy Francisco Alvarez Jr. (ASCCC Open Educational Resources Initiative (OERI)) .