Undocumented Times / Queer Yearnings

undocumented times / queer yearnings

May 25–October 6, 2024

Curated By M. Liliana Ramirez

"Featuring artwork by César Miguel Rivera Vega Magallón and Alexa Vasquez, this exhibition will highlight the experiences of undocumented queer immigrants that migrated to the U.S. as children and came of age in the country. As undocumented queer immigrants, they experience a double marginalization in which they must navigate both xenophobic and homophobic violence. Their queer identities marginalize them within undocumented immigrant communities, who frequently hold homophobic beliefs. Similarly, their undocumented status excludes them from many queer communities, who are often opposed to undocumented immigration despite their otherwise liberal politics. Consequently, undocumented queer immigrants cautiously and strategically choose how and when to be out about their sexuality and/or immigration status. While this double marginality undoubtedly positions undocumented queer immigrants as one of the most vulnerable communities within the immigrant population in the U.S. and the country writ large, many undocumented queer artists are also using their lived experiences to politically empower their communities.

Drawing from my personal experiences as a queer undocumented woman raised in Southern California and my doctoral research, Undocumented Times / Queer Yearnings will showcase the work of undocumented queer and trans artists who first came to the U.S. as children. As a team whose identities are deeply shaped by our experiences with the U.S.-Mexico border, having this exhibition at OMA holds an additional layer of meaning to the exhibition’s curatorial and artistic contributions. I crossed the U.S.-Mexico border with my mom at San Ysidro in 1999 when I was only four. After crossing, my mom and I made a home in the San Gabriel Valley in Southern California. Coming of age undocumented in a predominantly undocumented Latinx immigrant community deeply shaped my immigrant identity and sense of belonging. However, I also grew up hearing about family members or friends being deported, and I was constantly warned about avoiding certain streets where ICE was raiding a home. The conflicting realities of benevolent community support and ever-lingering anxiety about deportation is an experience shared by undocumented communities throughout Southern California.

Currently, Alexa and I live in different regions of Southern California, while Cesar lives in Mexico after self-deporting in 2017.  Despite the geographical distance from border violence, the exhibition brings us three together through their art and curatorial practices. Through this exhibition at OMA, I hope to bridge different communities across citizenship status, race, and sexual orientation to expand the support networks for immigrant issues. I aim to leverage my personal experiences as a queer undocumented woman with the objective of creating an inclusive space for Southern California’s immigrant and arts communities to learn about critical issues impacting queer undocumented immigrants in our region. Cesar and Alexa use their stories as undocumented queer immigrants to explore worlds that long for a future marked by queer joy and a past unmarked by the psychological impacts of displacement."

—Curator M. Lilliana Ramirez


Above: Alexa Vasquez, Herencia, 2022. Acrylic on canvas, 18" x 24".

Alexa Vasquez is a trans woman of color and child migrant from the state of Oaxaca in Mexico. She is a multidisciplinary artist with a focus in painting, writing, and fashion. Her work is autobiographical, poetic and political and her visual artworks are inspired by Oaxaca, by the experience of a migrant longing to make it back home. Her writings are memories of growing up in an immigrant household, leaving home, transitioning, and exploring trans womanhood. 

Above and at the top of the page: César Miguel Rivera Vega Magallón 

César Miguel Rivera Vega Magallón is a queer, formerly undocumented, Mexican poet and an advocate for migrant, refugee and returned/deportee rights. Born in Huentitán el Alto, Guadalajara, Jalisco, México, they resided in Northern Los Angeles County for 25 years before self-deporting back to Guadalajara in 2018. Their poetry and prose focuses on migration's spiritual and psychological tolls and on the loose threads of the colonial tapestry. Their self-portraiture attempts to visually establishes clandestine, forced migration to the broader legacy of colonialism and imperialism.


Celebrate with us on June 8, 2024

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