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    CSUF professor’s LA art exhibition is a ‘love letter to jotería communities’
    • October 25, 2023

    By Greg Hardesty, contributing writer

    Since he was a child, Eddy Francisco Alvarez Jr. has been writing.

    It was a creative outlet throughout a challenging upbringing.

    Eddy and his two sisters, Gaby and Patty, all children of immigrant parents, grew up on welfare and in subsidized housing.

    “Finding Sequins in the Rubble: Archives
    of Jotería Memories in Los Angeles” is the
    Museum of Social Justice’s first LGBTQ-focused exhibition. (Courtesy of Eddy Francisco Alvarez Jr.)

    Eddy Francisco Alvarez, associate professor in CSUF’s Department of Chicana and Chicano Studies (Courtesy of CSUF News Media Services)

    “Finding Sequins in the Rubble: Archives
    of Jotería Memories in Los Angeles” is the
    Museum of Social Justice’s first LGBTQ-focused exhibition. (Courtesy of Eddy Francisco Alvarez Jr.)



    Their Cuban father was mentally disabled, and their Mexican mother stayed home to take care of him when she wasn’t cleaning houses or hotel rooms.

    But challenges didn’t stifle the creative juices in Alverez, who in addition to writing also considered acting before he discovered his sweet spot in academia.

    Now, the associate professor in CSUF’s Department of Chicana and Chicano Studies is celebrating a first.

    Based on his research into queer Latinx communities in Los Angeles (Eddy grew up in the San Fernando Valley), his exhibition continues its run (Aug. 24 through Jan. 28, 2024) at the Museum of Social Justice in downtown Los Angeles.

    “Finding Sequins in the Rubble: Archives of Jotería Memories in Los Angeles” is the museum’s first LGBTQ-focused exhibition. It also marks Alvarez’s first time curating a public history project. And he had some help from students in two of his classes.

    “It’s been very scary because I have so much love for my communities, and it’s been lots of work,” says Alvarez, a member of the queer Latinx community of L.A., “but it’s also been so much fun and a very memorable experience.”

    Reclaimed empowerment

    Write your words

    to leave a legacy, a history, a herstory, a queerstory,

    so that your words may create paths to follow,

    Recipes for self-love, self-healing, survival.

    The above is from Alvarez’s poem, “Write Your Words,” and he views the exhibition as a form of poetry.

    “It’s a love letter to jotería communities in L.A. and everywhere,” says Alvarez, referring to the word derived from the derogatory terms Joto and Jota that historically have been used to describe people of Mexican descent who do not fit heteronormative standards.

    Jotería now is a reclaimed term of empowerment for queer Latinx and indigenous people.

    Alvarez’s exhibition was curated from images, artifacts and oral histories, and is designed to focus on the love, joy, activism and family that queer Latinx in Los Angeles have built.

    Alvarez first pitched the idea to a former professor at Cal State University Northridge, where Alvarez, a first-generation college student and former elementary school teacher, earned a bachelor’s degree in Spanish (he earned master’s and doctorate degrees in Chicana and Chicano Studies at UC Santa Barbara).

    It took a lot of support from former and current colleagues as well as students at CSUF, which Alvarez joined after teaching stints in New York and Portland, to make the exhibition a reality.

    Alvarez even got his family involved. A niece helped him pick up artifacts across Los Angeles

    Humbling and rewarding

    For the exhibition, some of Alvarez’s Titan students transcribed, conducted oral histories, did background research, and put together timelines.

    Esmeralda Llerenas, a first-year graduate student pursuing a master’s in counseling with an emphasis in the Latinx community, interviewed a good friend for the exhibit.

    “Being able to share his story, and being given the trust to do so, was so humbling and rewarding,” she says.

    Llerenas says Alvarez was a source of validation and comfort for her.

    “I struggled with my imposter syndrome on this project,” she says. “But he made sure to always be available and supportive, while also providing feedback. I trusted him and his expertise to guide me in the right direction.”

    Amalia Contreras, a recent graduate with a major in history and a double minor in Chicano studies with plans to become an educator or a journalist, collected data on oral history interviews that Alvarez conducted.

    She organized data from those oral histories using a spreadsheet that pinpointed the places that document important locations of where folks realized their sexuality and had first met their first boyfriend or girlfriend.

    “To me,” Contreras says, “Professor Alvarez is the most impactful educator and activist on campus. He has truly been a leader in every sense of the word. He is the reason why I minored in Chicano studies. And his presence in higher education has contributed to so much healing in the Latinx/Chicanx community here at CSUF.”

    ‘It feels like home’

    Alvarez is working on a book, “Finding Sequins in the Rubble: Memory, Space and Aesthetics in Queer Latinx Los Angeles,” an oral history and archival project that maps physical and ephemeral sites of memory and quotidian moments of pleasure and resistance for queer and trans Chicanx and Latinx communities in Los Angeles.

    He also is working on a collection of essays and poems about growing up queer.

    He’s thrilled to be at CSUF.

    “It feels like home,” Alvarez says. “Many of my students have stories like mine, and they are so committed to their learning. Many of them juggle multiple jobs and families and go to school. And I’m lucky to have amazing and supportive colleagues.”

    Visit to learn more about Alvarez’s exhibit.

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