Latin American and Caribbean Lesbian Feminist Network Is Formed Summary

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The first lesbian-feminist Encuentro, or encounter, was held in Mexico to establish a network of like-minded women in Latin America and the Caribbean. Although not without controversy over the inclusion of Latinas and Chicanas from the United States, and despite some problems with privacy and security and with religious and local governmental groups, the Encuentro was successful, empowering, and pathbreaking nonetheless.

Summary of Event

The idea for a specifically feminist and lesbian Encuentro came out of the 1985 International Lesbian Conference in Geneva, Switzerland. Women at the conference had envisioned a network for lesbian feminists from Latin America and the Caribbean that would emerge from the various feminist Encuentros that had taken place since 1981. The First Latin American and Caribbean Lesbian-Feminist Encuentro would take place in Cuernavaca, Mexico, from October 14 through October 17, 1987, at a private hacienda outside Mexico City. [kw]Latin American and Caribbean Lesbian Feminist Network Is Formed (Oct. 14-17, 1987) [kw]Caribbean Lesbian Feminist Network Is Formed, Latin American and (Oct. 14-17, 1987) [kw]Lesbian Feminist Network Is Formed, Latin American and Caribbean (Oct. 14-17, 1987) [kw]Feminist Network Is Formed, Latin American and Caribbean Lesbian (Oct. 14-17, 1987) Encuentro, Latina lesbian feminist network Lesbian feminism;Latin American and Caribbean Feminism;Latin American and Caribbean Lesbian conferences;Encuentros [c]Cultural and intellectual history;Oct. 14-17, 1987: Latin American and Caribbean Lesbian Feminist Network Is Formed[1800] [c]Organizations and institutions;Oct. 14-17, 1987: Latin American and Caribbean Lesbian Feminist Network Is Formed[1800] [c]Feminism;Oct. 14-17, 1987: Latin American and Caribbean Lesbian Feminist Network Is Formed[1800]

The lesbian-feminist Encuentro had been scheduled to take place one week prior to the fourth feminist Encuentro in Taxco, Mexico. At the Encuentro were 250 lesbian women from Chile, Peru, Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Nicaragua, Panama, Honduras, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and Costa Rica. Latinas and Chicanas also came from the United States, and a small number of non-Latinas who attended were from the United States, Canada, and Europe. Many participants also attended the feminist Encuentro the following week.

Women interested in attending the conference were required to write an essay about their knowledge of lesbian sexuality and of feminism. These essays were read by members of the Latina Americana Lesbiana (LAL) organizing committee, which selected the participants based on their essays. The rates for attending the conference varied according to regional classifications, which caused some dissension. Lesbians from Latin America and the Caribbean were charged $50 to attend; lesbians who were from Latin America and the Caribbean but who lived in other countries were charged $80-$120; and non-Latinas were charged $150-$250.

Concerned that the police or local residents would disrupt the gathering, the LAL planned the event with as little local publicity as possible. This prevented them, however, from seeking regional funding, and, consequently, from helping to fund the travel expenses for lesbians in Latin America and the Caribbean. For these funds, they approached organizations and individuals in Europe and the United States. Lacking, however, were adequate amounts of food, housing, volunteers, and funds during the conference. As a security measure, only three members of LAL knew the exact location of the Encuentro until the last minute. Bus drivers who transported participants from Mexico City to Cuernavaca were informed that they were en route to a Christian women’s retreat. Security guards were stationed around the perimeter of the central venue, and attendees were asked to refrain from public “displays” of their sexuality, including political and affectional, when they were outside the gathering site.

Lesbians who attended the Encuentro resided onsite and in nearby hotels and private residences. The conference program included workshops on topics such as lesbian motherhood, self-defense, sexuality, health, spirituality, relationships, documentation, organizing strategies, and monogamy versus nonmonogamy.

A plenary was the main event of each day, and they turned out to be the major sites of debate and conflict as well. At issue, in particular, was the creation of the network for lesbians from Latin America and the Caribbean specifically. Participants were divided about who could join the network, how it would be established, the criteria for inclusion, and how the network would serve lesbians who lived great distances from each other. The strongest disagreement came over whether or not to include Latinas and Chicanas from the United States. While some considered U.S. Latinas and Chicanas outsiders who lived in a privileged country and who could thus misuse their votes if they were included in the network, others recognized that there was a popular misunderstanding of U.S. Latinas and Chicanas. In the original voting, U.S. Chicanas and Latinas were not accepted into the network, a position that was reversed after heated and emotional debate and mediation.

The first gathering also included about fifteen women who were not Latina or Chicana. While permitted to attend, they were not welcomed by some of the participants. There also was concern that the five attending members of the International Lesbian Information Service, International Lesbian Information Service Lesbian Information Service, International organizers of the conference in Geneva, would take control of the network. At the same time, internal disputes divided the organizers, especially involving those with a Marxist-Leninist political philosophy.

Significance

Despite internal conflicts and concerns with security, privacy, and local government and religious intolerance, the first lesbian-feminist Encuentro was still a successful, historic event. The first Encuentro laid the groundwork for future gatherings in Peru (1989), Costa Rica (1990), Puerto Rico (1992), Argentina (1995), Brazil (1998), and Mexico (2004).

Encuentros that had been affected by unique, local circumstances and the political climate of the time included the gathering in Costa Rica in 1990. Threats from religious and governmental organizations and local residents hampered the gathering after news of the event was leaked to the media. In 1992, some lesbians from Latin America and the Caribbean had difficulty attending the Encuentro in Puerto Rico because of U.S. immigration restrictions. This conference included many participants from the United States, but because their participation was initially rejected by Mexican and Latin American lesbians during the debates about the network’s formation, the future participation of lesbian Latinas, especially Chicanas, was impacted greatly. Despite being relatively close to the southwestern United States geographically, not many Chicanas attended the sixth Encuentro in Mexico in 2004.

Over time, the network that was established at the first Encuentro faded. However, with the Internet and the Web, another type of “network” has since flourished, providing a simple and cost-effective means of communication among lesbians from around the world. Furthermore, lesbian feminists from Latin America and the Caribbean still attend feminist Encuentros. Encuentro, Latina lesbian feminist network Lesbian feminism;Latin American and Caribbean Feminism;Latin American and Caribbean Lesbian conferences;Encuentros

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">De la tierra, tatiana. “Latin American Lesbian-Feminists: Together in Mexico.” Visibilities (September/October, 1988): 8-11.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Díaz-Cotto, Juanita. “Lesbian-Feminist Activism and Latin American Feminist Encuentros.” In Sexual Identities, Queer Politics, edited by Mark Blasius. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2001.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Likosky, Stephan, ed. Coming Out: An Anthology of International Gay and Lesbian Writings. New York: Pantheon Books, 1992. Includes the articles “Mexico: From ’First Encounter of Lesbians and Feminists’” and “Man Royals and Sodomites: Some Thoughts on the Invisibility of Afro-Caribbean Lesbians.”
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Randall, Margaret. Our Voices, Our Lives: Stories of Women from Central America and the Caribbean. Monroe, Maine: Common Courage Press, 1995.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Reyes, Migdalia. “The Latin American and Caribbean Feminist/Lesbian Encuentros: Crossing the Bridge of Our Diverse Identities.” In This Bridge We Call Home: Radical Visions for Transformation, edited by Gloria E. Anzaldúa and AnaLouise Keating. New York: Routledge, 2002.

November 17, 1901: Police Arrest “Los 41” in Mexico City

1912-1924: Robles Fights in the Mexican Revolution

November, 1965: Revolutionary Cuba Imprisons Gays

1969: Nuestro Mundo Forms as First Queer Organization in Argentina

November 18-21, 1977: National Women’s Conference Convenes

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

June 19, 2002: Gays and Lesbians March for Equal Rights in Mexico City

April, 2003: Buenos Aires Recognizes Same-Gender Civil Unions

January, 2006: Jiménez Flores Elected to the Mexican Senate

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