Noche de Ambiente

October 2016 – February 2017

Curated by Juliana Delgado Lopera and Ángel Rafael “Ralph” Vázquez-Concepción

For decades, Spanish speakers in many parts of the Western Hemisphere have recognized the word ambiente — literally meaning “atmosphere” or “environment” — as a coded reference. Queer Latinas and Latinos have used the word to identify themselves, their distinctive cultures and their spirit of resistance. This term was at the heart of this exhibition, entitled “Noche de Ambiente.” The show opened a window into the meanings of ambiente as reflected in Latino drag performance and LGBTQ and AIDS activism in San Francisco from the 1970s to the 1990s.

Curated by Juliana Delgado Lopera and Ángel Rafael “Ralph” Vázquez-Concepción, the exhibition brought together documents, images and videos from the GLBT Historical Society’s archives as well as materials contributed by community members.

“Growing up in Puerto Rico, the word ambiente was familiar; I heard it a lot when I was a kid in the ‘80s,” said Vázquez-Concepción. “Later I came to understand the shielding effect it has. Like a spell, it turns the space it refers to into Latinx queer domain.”

Delgado Lopera first learned the word from the woman she sees as her queer mother, Adela Vázquez, who told Lopera stories that opened an underground world of queer Latinidad invisible to the public eye. Through Vázquez she met many queer Latinas and Latinos active during the 1980s and 1990s, some of whom formed her chosen family. “I’m committed to the unearthing and preservation of their stories because they’re part of me, they created openings for me to exist,” Lopera says.

A sampling of the Adela Vázquez papers documenting San Francisco's LGBTQ Latino scene from the 1980s and 1990s; collection of Juliana Delagado Lopera.

A sampling of the Adela Vázquez papers documenting San Francisco's LGBTQ Latino scene from the 1980s and 1990s; collection of Juliana Delagado Lopera.

About the Curators

Ángel Rafael “Ralph” Vázquez-Concepción is an independent curator based in San Francisco. His work oscillates between research and writing and exhibition design. Similarly, he works between North American and Latin cultures and between fields of knowledge production. He began his career as an independent arts journalist and curator in Puerto Rico from 2002 to 2012. Last year, Vázquez-Concepción obtained a master’s in curatorial practice from the California College of the Arts. He has curated exhibitions at the Museum of Contemporary Art of Puerto Rico and other institutions. Vázquez-Concepción also is the founder of Cranium Corporation, a platform for dialogue about art, artists and exhibitions.

Juliana Delgado Lopera is an award-winning writer, educator and oral historian born in Colombia and based in San Francisco. The recipient of the 2014 Jackson Literary award and a finalist for the Clark-Gross Novel award, she’s the author of ¡Cuéntamelo!, an illustrated bilingual collection of oral histories by LGBTQ Latino and Latina immigrants. Her work has been published in Four Way Review, Weird Sister, Revista Canto and many other publications. Delgado Lopera has performed at countless events around the Bay Area including Action Fiction and Lit Quake and has presented talks for numerous institutions. She is currently executive director of RADAR Productions, which organizes queer literary programs.