Los Pueblos Unidos Jamás Serán Vencidos

Martín Villagra-Riquelme, St. Albans High School
Art by Helena Yang, Richard Montgomery High School

Beyond the cookie-cutter image of the "St. Alban's Man".

(Published: 2019)

From a young age, I knew I was different, but I knew that I was different for two reasons instead of just one. Merriam Webster defines intersectionality as “the complex, cumulative way in which the effects of multiple forms of discrimination combine or intersect especially in the experiences of marginalized individuals or groups.” When I learned what the word meant, I realized that I had a word to define this internal conflict I have had with my two core identifiers.

“EL PUEBLO UNIDO JAMÁS SERÁ VENCIDO — which roughly translates to “The people united will never be defeated” — is a phrase I’ve heard time and time again that acts to empower the Latinx community in the US, but whenever I used to hear this phrase I would ask “with which people do I belong?” I always felt and always will feel a deep pride for being Latino and I have never denied that part of my identity, but up until recently I felt like my Latino identity made me constantly deny my other major identifier. As much as I love my heritage, my heritage doesn’t always love me back.

Hypermasculinity is defined as “an exaggeration of stereotypical male behavior, such as an emphasis on physical strength, aggression, and sexuality.” As a result, a hypermasculine society will reject anything it considers feminine, including homosexuality. Latin America and the Latinx community in the US are both deeply hypermasculine. Before I even knew that I was gay, I felt that I was a failure, all because I couldn’t fit this emotionally callous and aggressive stereotype that Latinos often model ourselves after.

While I’ve had the great fortune to live in an accepting household with parents who love me for who I am, when I realized that I failed to fit this hypermasculine image because I really was gay, my self depreciation suddenly took a whole new meaning. For the longest time, I felt as if there was nobody I could trust, and as this self scorning turned into self hatred, I pressured myself to accept my identity as a Latino over being gay. The labels associated with being Latino failed me, but I couldn’t match the labels of the LGBTQ+ community either.

The LGBTQ+ community was not faultless in my internal conflict either, as the queer community preaches PRIDE but does not always present the full extent of its members. The first thought that comes to mind when most envision a gay man is a white gay man, not one of color.

Besides homophobia in the Latinx Community, another reason I pressured myself to “choose” being Latino over being gay was that up until the end of my sophomore year, I had only met two people who were both openly queer and a person of color; as far as I knew, I was essentially one of three people in all of existence who identified with both.

Because people of color have had few models to follow within queer media, the community that I know has been severely whitewashed. Looking beyond my own internal struggles between being gay and being Latino, I also understood that my surroundings did not help me.

The discord between my two identifiers, topped off with being in a predominantly white institution, made me feel like I failed in every way at being this cookie cutter in the age of the “St. Albans Man.” I wasn’t white, I wasn’t straight, and I went to a school where the majority of students fit both of these categories. This feeling of being a failure followed me everywhere I went for three years until I reached an epiphany near the end of freshman year: one of the mottoes that I always heard was that the true “St. Albans Man” was the one who “took the hard right over the easy wrong.”

It finally clicked in my head: the path to self acceptance and self love was the hard right and denial was the easy wrong. Labels no longer mattered to me and these feelings of being a failure turned into my success story. Unity is the core value of both the LGBTQ+ and Latinx communities, not conformity. If the Latinx community becomes more accept ing, more Latinos will come out, meaning more exposure in queer media, confronting the whitewashing of LGBTQ+ representation. The reverse would also be true: if the LGBTQ+ community had more racial representation. more Latinos could come out, confronting homophobia within the Latinx community. If education and exposure on queer and race is sues reach the LGBTQ+ and Latinx communities, members of both communities will become advocates, and then we can truly be united; los pueb los unidos jamás serán vencidos.

Labels no longer mattered to me and these feelings of being a failure turned into my success story.