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6.2: Genealogy of Jotería Studies

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    Intersectional Feminist, Queer, and Trans Genealogies

    “Yes, there is a jotería movement! Although it hasn't been explicit, Cherríe and Gloria have fought for it. It has been an ongoing movement.” Lupe from UCLA student activist group La Joteria18

    Although its name, jotería studies, is relatively new, the field has a long interconnected genealogy. The trajectory of jotería thinking, writing, performing, and engaging in activism is woven together like a carefully crafted braid of hair or like sequined fabric, sequins stitched together, creating a luminous tapestry.19 Jotería studies 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. (For more on this, review Chapter 5). Collectives of lesbian and queer Chicanas have been at the forefront of these movements and shifts in consciousness. Like Gloria Anzaldua, Osa Hidalgo de La Riva is an important filmmaker and activist who laid the foundation for much of the creative and philosophical thinking. She is shown in Figure 6.2.1. When asked about her participation in the Chicano movement, Hidalgo De La Riva says, “Well, we were all active, as a family. My brother Louis did Chicano murals and he was always painting. When we organized events like a poetry reading or a Chicano art show, we would always have family and a large mix of people.”20 De La Riva’s comment reminds us that joteria were also part of the Chicano movement if those voices have often been excluded from the historical record.

    Osa De La Riva Hidalgo is standing in a conference room, smiling
    Figure 6.2.1:Osa Hidalgo De La Riva” by Melissa Moreno, Flickr is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

    Jotería studies also has muxerista foundations. According to Anita Tijerina Revilla, a “muxerista is a person whose identity is rooted in a Chicana Latina feminist version for social change, committed to ending all forms of oppression including but not limited to classism, racism, sexism, homophobia, and citizen ism. Its definition is rooted in the scholarship and activism of Chicanos and feminists of color, but it's extended by the work experience and theoretical understandings of the members of Raza Womyn,” an organization at UCLA in the late 1990s.21 Anita Tijerina Revilla, Joanna Nuñez, José Manuel Santillana, and Sergio A. Gonzalez remind us of this concept and its history, expanding it and arguing for a jotería-muxerista approach, a radical queer, gender expansive feminist perspective anchored in multidimensional and intersectional struggle, love, social justice, accountability, friendship, and healing.22 The historical, theoretical, and spiritual connections to women of color feminisms are particularly important to discuss in relation to the liberatory epistemologies that have shaped the critical work we do. Tracing the influence of women of color feminisms on queer of color theories and jotería studies demonstrates the interconnectedness of the diasporic, transnational, hemispheric, decolonial, and antiracist frameworks central to jotería studies, this chapter, and this whole book, and to the larger project of autonomy and self-determination for colonized peoples. 

    Jotería studies builds on the activism and writings of lesbian feminists of color such as the Combahee River Collective Statement, This Bridge Called My Back: Writing by Radical Women of Color, Borderlands: La Frontera/The New Mestiza, Zami by Audre Lorde, and more.23

    In This Bridge Called My Back, edited by Gloria Anzaldúa and Cherríe Moraga, the collection of essays and poems were theories in the flesh, meaning they were creating theories from their lived experiences.24 For example, Gloria Anzaldúa’s concept of “el mundo zurdo” (left-handed world) referred to those of us on the margins, outside of the dominant world, because of our multiple intersection identities such as queer folks, immigrants, disabled, and others, and the potential among us to create solidarity and social change.25 For the Combahee River Collective, race was inseparable from gender. Emma Pérez developed the concept sitio y lengua, which is about the empowerment of women, specifically Chicana lesbians, based on shared language and space, and how this bonding and nurturing makes it possible to embark upon struggles for social change.”26 Chela Sandoval’s concept of differential consciousness is the shifting modes in thinking (and action),  involved in navigating systems of power, in turn leading to action. These early contributions, concepts, and theories by feminist lesbians of color and the different namings of their identities point to interconnectedness, power in difference, solidarity, and what Anzaldúa called spiritual activism, and have been instrumental to understanding the interconnected nature of race, class, gender, sexuality, nation, and the idea that “the personal is political,” which is central to jotería identity. See Chapter 5: Feminisms for more details on this.

    In his essay, “Queer Theory Revisited” Micheal Hames-García, like other queer scholars of color, critiques the erasure of queer people of color from writings on the development of the field of queer studies.27 Hames-Garcia offers an alternative timeline that includes lesbian, gay, and queer of color writers such as Gloria Anzaldúa, James Baldwin, Audre Lorde, and Cherríe Moraga. Theorizing from the flesh, jotería studies is influenced by and part of what we understand as queer of color theories, which emerged as a response to the whiteness of queer theory, its tepid inclusion of race, and its overemphasis on high theory.

    Scholar Spotlight: Horacio N. Roque Ramírez

    An award-winning scholar, archivist, and oral historian, Horacio N. Roque Ramírez, featured in Figure 6.2.2, was one of the leading scholars in queer Latinx studies and Central American studies in the United States. He was an immigrant from El Salvador who received a Ph.D. in ethnic studies from UC Berkeley. His research focused on gay Latino San Francisco 1990s, AIDS and HIV, queer oral history, queer migrations, and transgender Latina studies. His essays on Teresita la Campesina were instrumental to current work on trans studies and jotería studies. For more on this, review Section 3.3: Embodied Memories: Archival Movidas and Oral History. He was also an expert witness in political asylum cases for queer and trans folks. Ramírez often used the term “centroMaricón” to refer to his intersectional identity as Central American, Salvadoran, gay, and immigrant.28

    Ramírez passed away on December 25, 2015 from complications of alcoholism. His legacy lives on in the students he mentored at the University of California, Santa Barbara and elsewhere and in his research, which has heavily impacted what we know today as jotería studies and trans Latinx studies. Memorials and tributes for him after his death remember him for loving dancing and partying, for his sassiness, and for his commitment to queer Latina/o histories. Dr. Roque Ramirez warned his graduate students of the dangers of not taking care of oneself in academia and recognized the damage it had done to him. Unfortunately, the interconnected wounds he experienced in his life, took a toll on him. One of his collaborators, also a queer feminist Central American oral historian, Nan Alamilla Boyd, wrote in a memorial to him: “He did this work from the heart because he believed that people on the margins—queers, trans immigrants, and people of color—have important stories to tell.”29

    Close-up photo showing Horacio Roque Ramirez’s face, smiling, wearing glasses, a brown sports coat, beige short and brown and tan tie.
    Figure 6.2.2:Horacio Roque Ramírez” by Eddy Francisco Alvarez Jr., Author is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.

    NACCS Joto Caucus

    As noted, the Association for Jotería Arts, Activism, and Scholarship (AJAAS), came out of NACCS. In the early 1990s, a gay men’s group within the National Association for Chicana and Chicano Studies (NACCS) named themselves the Joto Caucus.30 Raúl Coronado recounts that at his first NACCS in San Antonio, he called for a meeting of “Chicano jotos.” Initially calling themselves NALGA, they changed it to the Joto Caucus officially in 1993. Coronado cites that he soon learned that not all MEChAs (Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan) were as queer as the University of Texas, Austin MEChA. Move and cite the homophobia of MECHas but how others have been intersectional such as the University of Nevada Las Vegas MEChA. The Joto Caucus would play a pivotal part in AJAAS as described later in this chapter.

    In 2007, the NACCS Joto Caucus hosted a quinceañera to celebrate fifteen years of existence. This event was hosted in collaboration with ALLGO, an Austin-based queer people of color organization. To honor the intersectional feminist genealogies discussed earlier in this chapter, especially Chicana lesbian feminists, the event organizers decided to honor Chicana lesbians as madrinas as a form of expressing solidarity with them.31

    Association for Jotería Arts, Activism, and Scholarship (AJAAS)

    Pinpointing the exact moment when a field of study started can be difficult, but often there is an event, a publication, or a debate that is associated with its beginnings. In the case of jotería studies, the development in 2011 of the organization AJAAS, its first conference in 2012, and the publication of the 2014 Joteria Dossier in Aztlán: A Journal of Chicano Studies is that string of moments. The Association for Jotería Arts, Activism, and Scholarship (AJAAS) has been instrumental in the development of jotería studies as a discipline and field of study. The conferences organized by AJAAS have brought together folks doing critical work in the classroom, organizing spaces, and in the arts and have served as spaces of community building and creative and scholarly partnerships, as well as spaces where friendships have started and romantic relationships have blossomed among jotería. The conversations and experiences have nurtured scholarship in Chicanx studies and young scholars who are now faculty members teaching jotería studies courses and mentoring a new generation of jotería. There have been many challenges along the way, including painful moments of wounding among and within the organization, but there have also been dedicated moments for healing and reconciliation. This section focuses on the importance and critical role of AJAAS in the field providing a timeline of the gestation of the organization to the present moment.

    In 2011, AJAAS was founded by queer Chicanx and Latinx artists, activists, and scholars. Members of the Joto Caucus and Lesbian Bi Mujeres Trans (LBMT) caucuses of the National Association for Chicana and Chicano Studies (NACCS) came together because of a need for their own space feeling that while NACCS was an important space, they needed to expand and create their own organization. They had also grown frustrated with moments of cisheteropatriarchy, homophobia, and transphobia in the organization and challenges with representation within the organization. Still, as part of NACCS, the Joto and LBMT caucuses organized conferences in Las Vegas (2007), Los Angeles (2008), and Oregon (2010) where many young queer and trans Chicanx and Latinx folks were coming together for the first time seeing themselves reflected in a conference and feeling in community.

    The 2008 conference in Los Angeles was held at California State University, Los Angeles (CSULA) organized by Adilia Torres, Emmanuel Santillan and José Aguilar Hernandez. This conference brought jotería across different generations and hosted important conversations such as the need for jotería studies curriculum at CSU. Horacio Roque Ramirez, Peter Garcia were among the panelists talking about this topic. The keynote speaker was Cherríe Moraga and some of the panels were on fat shaming within the Chicanx Latinx community, jotería activism, and more. As with most of the conferences and jotería events, many of the participants who attended the conference felt empowered by the conversations they witnessed. One of the attendees was Zoraida Ale Reyes ( at the time she went only by Ale), a trans Mexicana activist and student at University of California, Santa Barbara. In an email Ale sent a few weeks after the conference to a group of people (including me) whom she met there, she wrote, “Compañeros y compañeras. I’m glad I can write to people from across the U.S. and from North to South...I was deeply moved by Cherrie Moraga's conversation[s]. Now, as we go back to our personal space, it’s good to work with our experiences and to share them just [as] I'm doing. Thank you for becoming part of the sacred space that grows with each of us wherever we are.”32 Al Reyes’ message marks an important historical moment for joteria but also speaks to the importance of joteria being in community with each other and of building a “sacred space” together as she emphasized in her email. 

    At the first conference at University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) in 2007 youth from UNLV MEChA expressed that the conference felt like a queer version of the Denver Youth Conference of 1969. This was a groundbreaking moment for jotería studies because young jotería started to see themselves reflected in their own history. After these successful and empowering conferences organized by the caucus still under NACCS, and after many conversations, they felt it was time to form their own organization. Activists, scholars, and artists met for several long meetings at University of California, Berkeley, the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and University of California, Los Angeles, finally coming up with the name and structure for the organization, although not without contention and disagreements about what the organization should be. Their conferences took place in Albuquerque at the University of New Mexico in 2012, at Arizona State University and Pueblo in Phoenix in 2014, University of Minneapolis and El Colegio Charter School in 2017, and Portland State University in 2019. The 2021 conference was supposed to be held at University of Nevada, Reno but due to the COVID pandemic, instead AJAAS held a series of online symposia on Zoom on activism and jotería scholarship.

    The Jotería Studies Aztlán Dossier

    Edited by Michael Hames-Garcia, the collection of essays in Aztlán put jotería studies on the map and is regarded by scholars and educators as foundational to the field.33 The essays focused  on topics ranging from activism to trans identity, spirituality, identity, aesthetics, and pedagogy and served as an entry into the field, providing room for others to continue to define and reimagine its contours and themes. Garcia wrote, “The essays in the dossier are gestures toward elaborating this emergent formation, whatever it might finally become.”34

    The dossier gave a name to this emerging field as it honored the work up to that point that had allowed for jotería studies to exist, like women of color and lesbian feminists of color as described in the section earlier in this chapter. The editor’s introduction essay, “Jotería Studies, or the Political is Personal” situates jotería studies in a genealogy of past scholarship, activism, and art by, about, and among queer Chicanxs and Latinxs and also highlights the importance of the personal experiences and auto-historias as central to jotería theorizing. Hames-Garcias shares that his jotería consciousness came not just from reading books or taking classes but also from his romantic encounters and sexual experiences.  

    As the dossier reminded us, many writers, scholars, and artists across different fields and different generations within Chicanx studies and Latinx studies during the 1990s-2000s, whose work addressed the intersections of history, colonialism, Chicanidad, Latinindad, and gender and sexuality, opened the path to talk about jotería as an identity, a politic, and a theoretical framework. Among these writers and artists are Ana Castillo, Arturo Islas, Gil Cuadros, Carla Trujillo, and scholars like Catriona Rueda Esquibel, Horacio N. Roque Ramírez, Juana María Rodríguez, Tomás Almaguer, Richard T. Rodríguez, Sandra K. Soto, David Román, Deborah Vargas, Larry LaFountain Stokes, and Carlos Decena, who have been instrumental in developing the field of jotería studies.35 Some of these earlier works are part of this genealogy but don’t necessarily use the word jotería to refer to themselves, or communities or theories they write about.


    18 Santillana, “Somos Jotería,” 53.

    19 Eddy Francisco Alvarez Jr., “Finding Sequins in the Rubble: Stitching Together an Archive of Trans Latina Los Angeles,” TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly 3, no.3-4 (November 2016): 618-627.

    20 Osa Hidalgo De La Riva and Maylei Blackwell, “Visions of Utopía While Living in Occupied Aztlán,” in Chicana Movidas: New Narratives of Activism and Feminism in the Movement Era, eds. Dionne Espinoza, María Eugenia Cotera, Maylei Blackwell (Austin: University of Texas Press 2018), 212.

    21 Anita Tijerina-Revilla, “Are All Raza Womyn Queer?:An Exploration of Sexual Identities in a Chicana/Latina Student Organization,” NWSA Journal  21, no. 3 (2009): 49.

    22 Anita Tijerina Revilla, Joanna Nuñez, José Manuel Santillana, and Sergio A. Gonzalez, “Radical Jotería-Muxerista Love in the Classroom: Brown Queer Feminist Strategies for Social Transformation,” in Handbook of Latinos and Education: Theory, Research and Practice, eds. Enrique G. Murillo, Dolores Delgado Bernal, Socorro Morales, Luis Urrieta Jr., Eric Ruiz Bybee, Juan Sanchez Muñoz, Victor Saenz, Daniel Villanueva, Margarita Machado-Casas, Katherine Espinoza (New York: Routledge 2022), 22-34.

    23 The Combahee River Collective. “A Black Feminist Statement,” in All the Women are White, All the Blacks are Men, But Some of Us Are Brave: Black Women’s Studies, eds. Akasha (Gloria T.) Hull, Patricia Bell-Scott,  and Barbara Smith (New York: The Feminist Press, 1982), 13-22.

    24 Cherríe Moraga and Gloria Anzaldúa, eds. This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color (New York: SUNY Press, 2015).

    25 Gloria Anzaldúa, The Gloria Anzaldúa Reader, ed. Ana Louise Keating (Durham: Duke University Press, 2009), 322.

    26 Emma Pérez, “Irigaray’s Female Symbolic in the Making of Chicana Lesbian Sitios y Lenguas (Sites and Discourses),” in Living Chicana Theory, ed. Karla Trujillo (Berkeley: Third Woman Press, 1997), 98.

    27 Michael Hames-García, “Queer Theory Revisited,” in Gay Latino Studies, ed. Michael Hames-García and Ernesto Javier Martinez, (Raleigh: Duke University Press, 2011).

    28 José M. Aguilar Hernández and Cindy Cruz, “ Grounding Emerging Scholarship on Queer/Trans* Chicana/o/x and Latina/o/x Pedagogies,” Association of Mexican American Educators Journal 14, no. 2 (2020): 18.

    29 Nan Alamilla Boyd, “Memorial,” Outhistory,

    30 Raúl Coronado, “Bringing it Back Home: Desire, Jotos, and Men,” in The Chicana/o Cultural Studies Reader, ed. Angie Chabram-Dernersesian (New York: Routledge, 2006), 234.

    31 In the past gay Chicanos had not always shown support for lesbianas despite them being there for them, especially during the AIDS crisis. Catriona and Luz essay

    32 Ale Reyes, Email message to author, October 23, 2008. Text was edited for clarity.

    33 Alvarez and Estrada, “Jotería Studies,” 863.

    34 Michael Hames-García, “Jotería Studies, or the Political is Personal,” Aztlan: A Journal of Chicano Studies 39, no.1 (Spring 2014), 138.

    35 Juana María Rodríguez, Queer Latinidad: Identity Practices, Discursive Spaces (New York: NYU Press, 2003). This book was a central book to help understand queer Latina/o identity and how identity practices are situational.

    This page titled 6.2: Genealogy of 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)) .