Oswaldo Vargas

Raspa Issue 6 Captures the Radical Act of Existing as Queer Latinx in the US Today


I subscribe to lists announcing lit mags with open submission periods. Sometimes there is a lit mag caters to a specific group of which I am not a part, so submitting doesn’t make sense, but supporting these creators often does. Following the description for Raspa, I found a beautiful treasure trove of Queer Latinx writing and artwork. Perfect new reading for Pride.

The first thing I noticed was how colorful Issue 6 was. The sculpted masks of Joel Hernandez are the only artwork appearing in the journal, adding color to the to the written work of the seven contributors. In comparison to many other literary magazines, Raspa has a brevity to it that makes it a simple task to take in the whole work, guided by the visual accompaniment of a single visual artist. As a result, I felt the stories and poems inside landed with more impact and their echos were more concentrated than I typically experience with more densely packed lit mags.

In its very conception, Raspa is radical art. Layers of Otherness in a hostile climate, where we are literally placing the Latinx people [humans!] who come to our borders in states of desperate need into concentration camps, housing them in ice boxes, separating children and babies from parents, and insisting that basic hygiene isn’t a right; to say nothing of the ongoing erosion of and assault on LGBTQAI+ rights in this country and the challenges of being a Queer Latinx individual writing Latino culture. It dares to give voice to these authors and their experiences and I’m grateful I get to listen. As the editor says in introduction,

The work of queer Latinx artists has taken a heightened role of activism, visibility, and healing under an administration convinced that we are not worth the ideals of the “American Dream.” Our community is especially vulnerable due to the fact that our identities lie at the intersection of race, gender, and class…

The featured artists, diverse in background, present work in this issue that I believe have an impact beyond the page. Pieces that move writing forward through technique, experimentation, and have an emotional impact that I hope our readers will find inspiring. The featured work is meant to serve as the catalyst for healing, coping, and action.

These writers write about life. Tori Cárdenas, for example, writes about a family divided by money in the wake of a death. Oswaldo Vargas writes about being love-struck at the taco truck (and swallowing the city of Morelia).

They write about the collected mysticism of their heritage. Shanya Cordis writes about the collected feminine power of African and indigenous lineages ready to unleash itself in resistance to white colonial imperialism. (Tangent: I want to take all of the courses she has designed and prepared to teach.) Joel Hernandez, the visual artist for the issue, explains in the artist statement about how they drew upon the tradition of masks used in storytelling to create modern masks and stories that grace the pages and cover of Issue 6. He draws on Mexican, Mexican-American, Gay culture in his work.

They write about restraint and release. Marcos Santiago Gonsalez writes three scenes about the compulsion to restrain oneself in the public spaces of the US where immigrant and brown bodies are vulnerable as compared to the stolen moments of release in private spaces. Joseph Delgado-Figueroa, on the other hand, writes of a confusing experience of combined release and restraint, an almost sexual awakening without full consent—of calling the devil and being terrified at its approach—in which, self-awakening is partially initiated, but simultaneously cruelly constrained. It is at once erotic and deeply worrying.

And they write about how complicated love and wanting can be. August Huerta, for example, writes two poems about a frozen moment if snow cave and unrequited love, respectively. While Aaron H. Aceves writes a short story about wanting between two men, in which the narrator wants to be the better choice for the other man.

Issue 6 of Raspa is beautiful: visually attractive, yes, and full of beautifully written poetry and short stories. These are the lit mags, like Raspa—the work of Editors César Ramos and Mónica Teresa Ortiz, and Art Director Sixto-Juan Zavala—that deserve our support, the least bit of the reparations we owe these artists and creators, and opportunity to share them further. Issue 6 is not sold out, yet.