The University of Michigan hosted an event Thursday to discuss the lasting impact of a June 12 mass shooting at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Florida where nearly 50 people were killed, on the Latino community.
The event began with a moment of silence for victims, before moving to a series of speakers.
Ramón Rivera-Servera, associate professor and chair of the Department of Performance Studies at Northwestern University, spoke at the forum, highlighting his personal experience as a queer Puerto Rican.
Rivera-Servera said hatred toward LGBTQ, Latino individuals can be seen not only through incidents such as the shooting, but also through what he called the “whitewashing” of media narratives, or the insertion of a white perspective in news reports. He noted that his research on queer Latino nightlife has suggested this is an issue in that space in particular.
“Latinos have always, in a way, been present in this nightlife history of the LBGTQ community, but their presence is often being marginalized in our rendition of national history,” Rivera-Servera said. “This attack is a really extreme manifestation of the kind of violence and hate and phobias that characterize the broader experience of risk.”
Vicky Koski-Karell, a doctoral student in the Medical School and Department of Anthropology, discussed a different kind of marginalization — health disparities within the Latino and LGBTQ communities.
She said these disparities have a ripple effect, leading to broader impacts throughout society.
“We’re reminded yet again that the attacks on queer and Latinx folks are not just about mental illness and gun control,” Koski-Karell said. “They’re about structural violence, born of discrimination and anger transference, and how we live in a society that thrives on division and the demonization of differences.”
Many attendees became emotional at the event, crying as speakers mentioned many of the Pulse shooting victims by name.
Yeidy Rivero, professor in the Department of American Culture and one of the hosts of the forum, said she thought it was crucial to have an open space for the LBGTQ and Latino communities to converge.
“Given our times today, what is going on across the United States and also on campus, I think it’s important to create spaces like this for people to talk among each other and discuss issues of homophobia, racism, et cetera,” Rivero said.
Rackham student Persephone Hernandez-Vogt, who attended the forum, said she found the event particularly salient both because she is a GSI for Spanish courses, but also because of ongoing conversations and protests this week on campus over a series of racially charged incidents.
“I think that the University of Michigan as an institution is a very white institution, and so that can be alienating to people of color who are on the campus,” Hernandez-Vogt said. “I think having events like this that discuss those identities is very important, but I also think this is something that discusses the intersection of identities.”
The forum, the first in a series for Latinx Heritage month, will be followed by one focused on the 2016 election on Thursday, Nov. 3.