Is Published Summary

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Oral histories, interviews, and creative writing make up the collection Compañeras, the first anthology of the writings, artwork, and oral histories of Latina lesbians. Compañeras led to the publication of another influential collection of work by lesbian women of color: Chicana Lesbians.

Summary of Event

Compañeras: Latina Lesbians, a collection of writings, oral histories, and artwork by Latina lesbians published in 1987, was the first of work of its kind. The anthology was conceived as a response to the isolation and invisibility of Latina lesbians in the United States. Its editor, Juanita Ramos (pseudonym for Juanita Díaz-Cotto), is a black Puerto Rican lesbian activist who has been living in the New York City region since the early 1960’s. Since the late 1970’s, she has been active in lesbian and gay organizations such as El Comité Homosexual Latinoamericano (The Latin American Homosexual Committee) and the Coalition for Lesbian and Gay Rights. She also was an organizer for the 1979 National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights. [kw]Compañeras: Latina Lesbians Is Published (1987) [kw]Latina Lesbians Is Published, Compañeras: (1987) [kw]Lesbians Is Published, Compañeras: Latina (1987) [kw]Published, Compañeras: Latina Lesbians Is (1987) Latina lesbians, and literature Literature;lesbian [c]Literature;1987: Compañeras: Latina Lesbians Is Published[1720] [c]Publications;1987: Compañeras: Latina Lesbians Is Published[1720] [c]Race and ethnicity;1987: Compañeras: Latina Lesbians Is Published[1720] [c]Organizations and institutions;1987: Compañeras: Latina Lesbians Is Published[1720] Ramos, Juanita

Confronted with the racism Racism;in GLBT organizations[GLBT organizations] and classism Classism;and Latina lesbians[Latina lesbians] of predominantly Anglo, middle-class organizations, Ramos sought to create autonomous projects for Latina lesbians. She noted that very few Latina lesbians had been published in lesbian-focused books and journals and envisioned an anthology of the works of Latina lesbians. Along with Digna Landrove de la O, Ramos formed the Colectiva Lesbiana Latinoamericana Colectiva Lesbiana Latinoamericana Lesbiana Latinoamericana Colectiva (Latin American Lesbian Collective) in 1980 and sought material for the anthology. While the collective did grassroots networking within the communities in New York City and San Francisco, it was difficult to get a sufficient amount of original creative writing from Latina lesbians. To remedy the problem, Ramos offered potential contributors the option of presenting their life experiences via oral histories. She interviewed more than twenty women from New York City and San Francisco. While the collective eventually dissolved, Ramos continued gathering and editing the material for the anthology.

A number of fund-raising events were held to support the production of Compañeras. Organizations from Brooklyn and Manhattan assisted with raising funds for the project; these organizations included the Lesbian Herstory Archives, Lesbians Rising at Hunter College, and the restaurant La Papaya. Supporters in San Francisco organized a fund-raising dance featuring the all-women salsa band La Orquesta Sabrosita. In addition, funds were solicited and received from the North Star Fund, the Astraea Foundation, the Lucius and Eva Eastman Fund, Inc., and the Chicago Resource Center.

After encountering resistance from women’s publishers and commercial presses related to the editing process, Ramos formed the Latina Lesbian History Project, which published the first edition of Compañeras in 1987. This edition features the writings, oral histories, and artwork of forty-seven women who were born in ten different countries. The book is organized thematically by sections such as The Other Side, Coming Out, Lovers and Friends, Families, and The Struggle Continues, the last of which alludes to the difficulties of straddling the dual Latina and lesbian identity in the midst of a racist, sexist, and homophobic society.

A second edition of the book was published by Routledge in 1994, and a the third edition, published in 2004 by the Latina Lesbian History Project, contains an expanded section in Spanish by sixteen additional women from an additional four countries. This newer section focuses on identity formation and lesbian-feminist movements in Latin America.

Compañeras documents the lives of a variety of Latina lesbians, from a young Chicana prostitute and junkie to a Nicaraguan immigrant who struggles with the memory of a closeted love. Latin American activists are also well-documented, such as the Mexican politician Patria Jiménez Flores and founding lesbian activists in Argentina, Ecuador, Costa Rica, and the Dominican Republic. Many of the international interviews took place during several of the Latin American, lesbian-feminist Encuentros. The anthology includes an extensive introduction by Chilean lesbian writer Mariana Romo-Carmona (whose books were later published by the Latina Lesbian History Project). Writings in the book include Spanish, English, and Spanglish. While the preface and introduction appear in both Spanish and English, other texts appear as first written and submitted to the editor or in the language spoken during a given oral history.

Many of the women who wrote or were interviewed for the collection used their first names or a pseudonym for publication, reflecting the homophobia of the time and of the fear of coming out publicly. Among the writers who named themselves and who eventually published in other journals, anthologies, musical recordings, or in books of their own were Gina Anderson, Rosita Angulo Libre de Marulanda, Gloria Evangelina Anzaldúa, Ochy Curiel, tatiana de la tierra, Yuderkys Espinosa, Hilda Hidalgo, Nemir Matos-Cintrón, Naomi Littlebear Morena, Juana María Paz, Migdalia Reyes, and Mariana Romo-Carmona.

Significance

Compañeras: Latina Lesbians is characteristic of early literature by women and lesbians of color who politicized the fusion of race, ethnicity, and sexuality. Their declarative statements of identity were influenced by social movements of the 1960’s and 1970’s, such as the movements for civil rights, women’s rights, gay and lesbian rights, and the Mexican labor struggle.

Another anthology, influenced by the work in Compañeras, was published in 1991. Edited by Carla Trujillo, Chicana Lesbians: The Girls Our Mothers Warned Us About, Chicana Lesbians (Trujillo, ed.) features poetry, fiction, essays, and artwork in English, Spanish, and Spanglish by twenty-five Chicana (Mexican American) contributors. Chicana Lesbians similarly presents the varieties of language, class, education, color, and culture among Chicana lesbians. Other significant Latina lesbian publishing projects are the magazines esto no tiene nombre esto no tiene nombre (periodical) (1991-1994; this has no name) and conmoción conmoción (periodical) (commotion, or in motion). These magazines published poetry, fiction, essays, reviews, interviews, comics, and artwork by more than eighty Latina lesbians from the United States and abroad, with the writings alternating in Spanish, English, and Spanglish as well. Some of the contributors to esto no tiene nombre and conmoción included Latina lesbians who were published in Compañeras and in Chicana Lesbians originally. Latina lesbians, and literature Literature;lesbian

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">De la tierra, tatiana. “Activist Latina Lesbian Publishing: esto no tiene nombre and conmoción.” In I Am Aztlán: The Personal Essay in Chicano Studies, edited by Chon A. Noriega and Wendy Belcher. Los Angeles: University of California, Chicano Studies Research Center, 2004.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Ramos, Juanita, ed. Compañeras: Latina Lesbians, An Anthology. New York: Latina Lesbian History Project, 2004.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Trujillo, Carla, ed. Chicana Lesbians: The Girls Our Mothers Warned Us About. Berkeley, Calif.: Third Woman Press, 1991.

April, 1977: Combahee River Collective Issues “A Black Feminist Statement”

October 12-15, 1979: First National Third World Lesbian and Gay Conference Convenes

1981: This Bridge Called My Back Is Published

October, 1981: Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press Is Founded

1982: Lorde’s Autobiography Zami Is Published

September, 1983: First National Lesbians of Color Conference Convenes

1986: Paula Gunn Allen Publishes The Sacred Hoop

1987: Anzaldúa Publishes Borderlands/La Frontera

1987: Asian Pacific Lesbian Network Is Founded

1987: VIVA Is Founded to Promote Latina and Latino Artists

October 14-17, 1987: Latin American and Caribbean Lesbian Feminist Network Is Formed

1990: United Lesbians of African Heritage Is Founded

January, 2006: Jiménez Flores Elected to the Mexican Senate

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