OPEd | On Latino Machismo and Forgiveness
by Charlie Vázquez
I clearly remember all of the homophobic and sexist comments my late father used to
make and how they confused and terrorized me--me being the quiet and sensitive type.
But people are a product of their times; none of us is immune to what we are
bombarded with by the media; what our favorite singers and celebrities preach—what
we extract and adopt from the dominant popular culture which stalks us even online. Am
I saying this behavior is acceptable? No, I'm not. But everything has a reason and
people can and do change.
When I began writing “Meditations/Meditaciones – Bronx/Salsa” in 2006 upon my
return to New York from the West Coast, and after a seventeen-year absence, I began
buying all the records my father used to play in the house when I was a little boy. This
was a way of connecting with him after having lost track of him (almost) forever in the
late 1990s. My family had assumed by then that he had perished in the poverty of the
South Bronx, but he was in fact living in obscurity after changing his legal name.
One of the things that's been hard for me to rationalize as an openly queer man is
that I'm having an easier time being openly gay in Latino/Nuyorican society, while I'm
finding that outside of LGBT Latino circles, the LGBT world can be a challenge, as it
inherits mainstream America's racism and classism like no one's business. Ten years
ago I would've claimed the opposite, yet this broad shift in Latino consciousness has
been both a blessing and something that confuses the defenses I built up against it in
my chaotic adolescence.
Connecting with living salsa icons and historians for writing projects and cultural
research has mirrored this dynamic shift in the “hardcore machista” landscape, and
although there is still much work to be done, those who remain publicly active from my
father's generation and created the music and culture of my childhood years are more
likely to say nowadays, “You're gay, so what?” than “You're going to hell, you know.”
Never will we know the adversities and ignorance that threw them into their hateful
corners. Forgiveness is a powerful act.
I wrote and published a bilingual poetry collection dedicated to the man who
exposed me to some of the world's most dazzling music during my childhood.
“Meditations” was written both in San Juan, Puerto Rico and New York and features
over sixty bilingual poems based on my Puerto Rican and Cuban roots; my earliest
years; my identity and being. It is also a conscious act of forgiveness and a
declaration of love. I hope that those of you who choose to read it enjoy it.
Please let me know!
Available on Amazon.com
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One of the things that's
been hard for me to
rationalize as an openly
queer man is that I'm
having an easier time
being openly gay in
while I'm finding that
outside of LGBT Latino
circles, the LGBT world
can be a challenge, as it
America's racism and
classism like no one's