Victor Hugo Marroquin is a social activist and program coordinator for The Latino Equality Alliance, a non-profit organization that focuses on advocating and educating the Latinx community and the LGBTQ+ community in Boyle Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles.
Marroquin’s mother is Mexican and his father is Guatemalan. Growing up in a multi-generational home in East Hollywood was a good experience, Marroquin says, but adds that his life also came with lots of challenges.
The 25-year-old says that being part of the local LGBTQ+ and Latinx communities have shaped them into the person they are today. The biggest voter issues for Marroquin are healthcare, education, law enforcement and environmental justice.
“I think that for many members of our community, especially for our queer and transgender communities, having access to pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) services that help to prevent HIV,” they said, “and for our trans siblings to have gender-affirming surgery, access to hormones and testosterone, I think that we should all have the right to health care that affects everyone.”
Marroquin said that he is concerned about how the likely reversal of Roe v. Wade will affect cisgender women and the LGBTQ+ community.
“Ultimately, you’re banning safe abortions,” Marroquin said. “This can mean life and death for many people in our community.”
Marroquin said the The Latino Equality Alliance is a non-profit organization based in Boyle Heights. The activist group was formed in 2008 and dedicates its efforts to empowering and educating LGBTQ+ youth and their families.
The Latino Equality Alliance was launched in 2008. “We’re a very small organization,” Marroquin said. “We hope to continue to grow and continue to provide amazing work.”
Each Friday between noon and 4 p.m., the group operates a “pride pantry” that is open to the public. They also provide basic needs, from clothing donations to masks and rapid testing kits to combat Covid-19. CALÓ NEWS caught up with Marroquin who participated in a Q&A.
Responses have been edited for clarity and brevity.
WHAT IS THE LATINO EQUALITY ALLIANCE?
Our mission statement is to advocate for the safety, wellness, and prosperity of the Latinx LGBTQ+ community. We do that through educational empowerment, family workshops and our activism.
We provide services to LGBTQ people, Latino people, people of color and working-class people. We don’t have a lot of services catered to specific members of our community. When we advocate for this, it’s very important to acknowledge that the kind of homophobia and transphobia that queer and trans people of color experience is highly racialized. So it’s important for us to have that intersectional framework.
WHAT IS LIFE LIKE GROWING UP WITH PARENTS WHO ARE IMMIGRANTS?
I wouldn’t be anything without my parents. They helped me, they made it possible for me to get through school. I’m the first in my family not just to make it to college, but to also get past a sixth-grade education. My parents never had that opportunity, but they made sure I had that opportunity.
When I came out, even though it was difficult, oftentimes in the world we live in, we want to live in binaries, and we want to say, ‘Okay, this person is either a good person or they’re bad,’ ‘they’re woke’, or ‘they’re canceled’. But it’s more complicated than that. It requires us to acknowledge that relationships can be complicated and we have to have a lot of patience with that as well. I’m not trying to justify the way my parents treated me, which was not okay when I came out. But at the same time, they didn’t have access to education. I think it’s important for us to see the forest and the trees all at once and kind of see how [people like] my father were brought up and how he himself suffered from having to police himself.
DO YOU VOTE?
Of course, I think it’s important for me to vote. I come from a mixed-status immigrant family. And Even though I come from a family of like six to seven people, it’s only my brother and I who were born here. We are the only ones who can vote [in our family]. We are voting for a lot of people, so it’s very important for us to go.
WHAT ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT ISSUES WHEN VOTING?
I especially think bodily autonomy is very important, as we’re seeing right now with what’s happening with abortion rights being taken away, this does affect their community. Because working class people need access to that in a safe way. Ultimately, you’re banning safe abortions. This can mean life and death for many people in our community. And this also is not just for cisgender women, [this is important for our] trans men and gender non-conforming people also need this. This sucks because, once again, our bodies are being regulated by people who will never go through these issues.
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT LAW ENFORCEMENT IN LA?
I think it’s violent, they use excessive force. I’m scared of the police. Like I said before, I come from a mixed immigrant family and the police I’ve always seen as a force that can deport our families. One of my most defining experiences with the police was when I was very young, and my grandmother would have yard sales in Hollywood. That’s where I’m from, I’m from East Hollywood. This cop came in, he was also Latino. He was Brown, and he said, ‘You know what señora, this isn’t Mexico.’ This is what my family would do to try to make ends meet and make friends. How do you keep families safe in those kinds of moments?
DO YOU BELIEVE LOCAL AND STATE GOVERNMENT HANDLED THE PANDEMIC WELL?
No, I honestly thought they did a very terrible job. A lot of lives were lost. I don’t think masks were being enforced at a level that people should have been wearing masks. Also, at least in my perspective, when Omicron was going around it was really difficult to have access to a Covid-19 test.
And there was no government relief or financial aid, especially for our immigrant communities and working-class families. Many of our families, I saw them in situations where they lied to their place of work and said they didn’t have Covid-19 because they can’t miss work. The government did not take into consideration financial assistance.
HOW IMPORTANT IS IMMIGRATION REFORM?
It should definitely be one of their highest priorities, especially because we’re still seeing a lot of folks come in as refugees. The way immigration needs to be addressed is also in a way addressing racism, right? A lot of Ukrainian refugees are able to come to the Mexican/American border with a lot of ease. And that’s something that’s never been a reality for folks who are from Haiti, from Central America, from Mexico or parts of South America. It’s very discriminatory. At the end of the day, we’re all humans and I just feel like it’s awful that we forget that we just kind of normalized poverty in our society. So, I think it should definitely be one of their top issues to address.
HOW IS LA HANDLING HOMELESSNESS?
I don’t think they’ve really tackled homelessness. They kind of normalize poverty. Los Angeles has the highest homeless population. I’m in dowtown LA every day because I live in East Hollywood and I work in Boyle Heights.
It just makes me so sad to see so much of our community going through this. How can we just turn away? When you pass through Skid Row, it’s just awful. I see it in the way we treat homeless people. We see them as less than human. It’s really sad, but I don’t think LA has addressed homelessness in any kind of way, not in the way that’s providing services. They’re not out there trying to make sure they have masks. Now their solution is to criminalize homelessness. How does that help?