Queer undocumented artist Julio Salgado speaks out

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Salgado continues: You have all these undocumented and queer people coming out and saying, "We're undocumented and queer, and we're going to sit in your office and do a sit-in and change that narrative." If you see that and you're undocumented, you're going to be inspired. That's the whole point. That's why people do those actions. They want to inspire the community. I think that's great: Come out and be who you are. For me, that's what pushed me to say: "Okay Julio, stop. Stop feeling sorry for yourself, and do something about it."

Could I get arrested? Could I get deported? Yeah. Sure. That's happened. We're a strong community. If you are in a deportation proceeding, we'll be there. We'll help out. I'm a privileged, undocumented person. I'm from California. I don't have any excuse. Right now, we're driving back from an action on the border, back to L.A., and we're about to pass a checkpoint, and I'm not scared. I'm not scared, because I know that if I was pulled over right now and detained, somebody's going to have my back. That's because it's a whole community that's doing this. That's why I'm not afraid.

What inspires you to take these risks?

It's because of the students. It's because of the youth. Up to a certain point, everybody was like, "The youth, the youth, the youth, the immigrant youth." But our parents are also courageous for being there for us and pushing us not to be silent anymore. It's been a huge inspiration.

Talk about the event in Denver?

I'm really excited. It's really cool that people want us to come, and the collaboration I'm doing with Yosimar is exciting. He's another really talented person who is giving another narrative about what being an immigrant is. A lot of his work is about making this country look at itself and talking about: Why is it that people come over here? Why are we so afraid to go back to Mexico or whatever country you're from? Why is it that we're talking about being good immigrants, when in reality, we're not always? Not everybody is a perfect immigrant. This idea that we're trying to show how good we are and how we constantly have to ask for forgiveness, I'm tired of that. I'm not going to be on my knees and ask for forgiveness, because nobody's perfect. Art is a way to talk about this narrative. I'm just so happy that it's getting out there and that people dig it. And some people don't. It's cool. They can do their thing.

Have you done these events before?

Yeah. I've done the art workshop and the art talk at other schools. If we don't do it ourselves, somebody's going to do it. They're going to write a thesis about it, and they're going to write their papers. Why can't I talk about my art? We are always striving to be accessible to the people who are going to see this art, because this art is a tool. It belongs to the community. It is important to have these conversations with the people who actually use the art and want to know more.

Salgado and Reyes will lead the workshop Undocuqueer Voices: Stories of Growing up Queer and Undocumented, at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, March 18, in the ATLAS Building, 1125 18th Street in Boulder, on the University of Colorado. Admission is free.

Follow me on Twitter at: kyle_a_harris.

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Kyle Harris has been Westword’s Culture Editor since 2016, writing about the arts, music and film.
Contact: Kyle Harris

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