Based on ethnographic work conducted between 2004 and 2006 with LGBT Latino community members living in the D.C. metro area, as well as summer research conducted in El Salvador during 20061, I will illustrate in this article that translating across “fields of power” generates new theoretical and methodological tools to better account for the privileged position of ‘Western’ thought. This discussion becomes more intricate when intersected within the current migration context where subjective identity understandings are constantly decentering ‘space’ (Gilroy 2000:122).
As my research further illustrates, U.S. identity categories such as ‘queer’ and ‘Latino/a’ are not stable categories but are constantly reinvented and politicized according to diverse constructions of race and sexuality where notions of ‘queer’ space (US) are blurred with narratives from the homeland. That is to say, LGBT Latinos/as’ refusal to occupy a ‘queer’ and ‘Latino’ fixed identity acts as a way to contest, negotiate and re-signify a ‘western’ (colonial, Eurocentric) ‘authority’ embodied by these scripts and labels in a translation/border crossing continuous flux. I place my discussion of identities within a power/knowledge framework (as theorized by Foucault 1972, 1978, 1980) and apply it to the difficulty of translating sexual and racial borders when crossing borders that have been geographically and politically defined as the “United States of America” and “El Salvador.” I will interject Gilroy’s (2000:122-123) discussion on memory that suggests it is precisely on the trans-national spaces within and between the ‘homeland’/‘Diaspora’ as well as in the ‘in-betweens’, where memory becomes a primary ground for a multiplicity of identities without a particular origin to emerge ‘in a queer time and place’ (Halberstam 2005). This research expands current discussions on the production of Latino LGBT subjects mostly carried out on the U.S. West Coast (Roque 2002) and New York by and large focusing on Chicanos/as and Caribbean LGBT communities (Rodríguez 2003; Quiroga 2000; Muñoz 1999).
Border crossing has entailed that Latinos and mostly non-white ethnicities face an institution apparatus that either denies them entrance or deports them based on their ‘undocumented’ condition. These conditions are aggravated by ethnic/sexual/racial/gender identity status (Luibheid and Cantú 2005). Passport controls, border checks, interviews, interdiction, detainment, “secondary inspection”, profiling, and other tactics have served to establish or determine identities, to draw out “confessions” of who one is (Epps, Valens and Johnson 2005: 5). Some of the disciplining practices at play within the different borders are further illustrated in this article through the lives of Mexican and Central American LGBT activists living in the DC area arise from these established identities.