In Honor of Horacio N. Roque Ramírez, Part 1: Oral History as Queer Archive: Listening with Horacio N. Roque Ramírez

AHA Session 85
Oral History Association 1
Committee on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender History 3
Friday, January 6, 2017: 8:30 AM-10:00 AM
Mile High Ballroom 1A (Colorado Convention Center, Ballroom Level)
Stephen Vider, Museum of the City of New York
Lauren Gutterman, University of Texas at Austin
Griselda Jarquin, University of California, Davis
Kristyn Scorsone, Rutgers University, Newark
Stephen Vider, Museum of the City of New York

Session Abstract

In a 2002 essay titled, “My Community, My History, My Practice,” Horacio N. Roque Ramírez reflected on the moment he decided to begin an oral history project on queer Latina/o/x life in San Francisco: he was in Julia Curry Rodriguez’s class at UC Berkeley, a graduate seminar on “Oral History and Immigrant Communities.” His first instinct was to write about Salvadoran immigrants—his own family had immigrated to Los Angeles from El Salvador when he was 12—but he chose instead to focus on a “different kind of migration,” a history in which he had also taken part—“queer Latina and Latino history in the Bay Area, and the role migrants and immigrants like me have played together in building it.” The essay was one of Roque Ramírez’s earliest academic publications, appearing only a year after he received his Ph.D., but already revealed the dual, overlapping commitments that would define his career: his dedication to queer Latina/o/x history, and to oral history as a queer archive—one which might demand as much of the listener as the speaker. One of three sessions submitted to the AHA in honor of his life and work, this roundtable looks to Roque Ramírez’s oral history practice as a model for community scholarship—as a means of inviting and preserving memories of marginalized individuals and groups; as a critical method for investigating and understanding intersections of gender, sexuality, ethnicity, race, and class; and a way for reimagining citizenship, desire, and our own connections to the past. As Roque Ramírez wrote, “[M]emory is about history and history is about survival.” 

Our first two participants will consider the direct ways Roque Ramírez’s oral history methods and writings have inspired their scholarship. Lauren Gutterman will consider the uncommon humanity Roque Ramírez brought to his writing about the practice of oral history, and its resonance for her work on women who desired women in the post-World War II U.S. Griselda Jarquin will reflect on the ways Roque Ramírez provided a role model for pursuing histories with personal resonance, particularly as the child of Nicaraguan immigrants. Our second two participants will move to consider the broader methodological potential and limitations of oral history. Víctor Macías-González will discuss his oral histories with Mexican participants of transnational American-Mexican LGBT organizing in the 1950s. And finally, Cyrana Wyker will explore the making of the queer historical subject through oral history interviews she has conducted with self-identified LGBT residents of Tampa, Florida. These four presentations together aim to listen with Roque Ramírez for the possibilities of oral history, for scholars in LGBT history, Latina/o/x history, and histories of community formation and activism more widely. Stephen Vider, who is a primary investigator on an oral history project on the emergence of LGBT psychotherapy and social services, will serve as chair and commenter. The panel is co-sponsored by the Committee on LGBT History and the Oral History Association.