After 20 years of offering a wide range of support, education and advocacy for Chicago-area LGBTQQ Latinas, Amigas Latinas is announcing plans to fold the organization.
"We did not take this decision lightly, it was over a year-long process," said board president Alma Izquierdo. "But we have to recognize that despite a vibrant legacy, we no longer have the resources or capacity to continue our work in the ways that we think our growing and changing community deserves."
Founded in 1995 as a monthly discussion group, Amigas Latinas was the only Chicagoland organization specifically serving LBTQQ Latinas for almost two decades.
At its peak, Amigas Latinas offered monthly platicas ( chats ) in members' homes, covering topics that ranged from identity, relationships, and family issues to mental health, domestic violence, and legal issues, as well as support groups, workshops, educational training, public programs and events.
Volunteer-run for most of its organizational life, Amigas Latinas advocated to ensure that legislators, funders, and other not-for-profit organizations consider the intersection of issues faced by LGBTQQ Latinas, who often struggle with invisibility or discrimination within Latina/o communities and within larger LGBTQ organizations.
The organization is perhaps best known for its efforts to document the violence and discrimination, both domestic and external, facing LGBTQQ Latinas. A 2007 study spearheaded by the organization entitled Proyecto Latina was the first to survey the specific issues facing LGBTQQ Latinas in Chicago. The findings of that report are still the primary data used to cite the health and violence issues facing LGBTQQ Latinas.
Other accomplishments included:
Amiguitas Youth Group: Created to offer the first youth group specifically for Latina adolescents and 20-somethings who identify as LGBTQQ.
Entre Familia: Developed to provide a safe environment for parents and friends of Latino LGBTQ persons to meet and talk about their lives. Most parents attended with their sons and daughters.
Madurando Elegante: A group for women to explore issues related to aging gracefully as a Latina who loves and partners with women.
Projecto Basta: Service Provider Training: Training offered to professionals and nonprofits who serve Latinas regarding cultural issues related to Latina women who love women in terms of mental health, substance abuse and domestic violence.
La Dulce Palabra Spoken Word Ensemble: A spoken word collective comprised of LGBTQQ and ally artists who foster self-expression and creativity. It started as a collaboration between En Las Tablas Performing Arts Center and Amigas Latinas.
In recent years Amigas Latinas found it increasingly difficult to maintain earlier levels of programming and advocacy. "We struggled with this decision," says Izquierdo, "because we know that there are still women out there who haven't found the community or the support they need to come out as LGBTQQ Latinas." At the same time, the board notes that over the past 20 years there has been a significant expansion in the availability of services to LGBTQ Latinos in Chicago.
The organization plans to archive its history in collaboration with Gerber/Hart Library. An exhibit celebrating Amigas Latinas will take place in June.
On July 10, founders, former board members, past and current Amigas Latinas members, friends and families will come together to celebrate the organization's twenty year long history. More information will be forthcoming.