Queer Mercado in East Los Angeles Fosters Representation and Networking in the LGBTQ+ Community

Queer Mercado BELatina Latinx
Photo courtesy of laist.com

East Los Angeles has been a historical epicenter of civil struggles; it is an area that, since the Chicano moratorium of 1970, has been fighting gentrification and displacement of communities of color.

Now, a Queer Marketplace wants to emphasize networking among small business owners in the LGBTQ+ community on the map.

As reported by the LAist, the Queer Mercado has been a space for East L.A.’s queer community to connect with and support local LGBTQ+ businesses for the past four months.

The idea came about when Diana Diaz, a native of the area and school counselor, thought her Goddess Mercado project, a space that helps create economic opportunities for local women of color businesses, could open the fan to other communities.

“I realized, when I was approached about being at the Goddess, that there is a huge need, not just for Latinas, or Chicanas, but for queer youth in East L.A.,” said Diaz. “There’s so much shame because of machismo because we’re predominantly Latino. It’s so important to create spaces where we’ve increased tolerance and visibility.”

Diaz had originally considered the name Chicano Queer Mercado. However, she realized that the term “Chicano” was not inclusive enough for the space and decided to remove the first part of the title.

With a vision and now a name, Diaz would have to find a place to house the market. She contacted Rosalba Gonzalez, director of the Hilda L. Solis Learning Academy, about using the center’s parking lot. While talking with Gonzalez, Diaz learned that the school had been hit financially by the COVID-19 pandemic and had hardly any laptops for students and other resources for the school’s youth programs.

Diaz then had a place and purpose of investing back into her East Los Angeles youth community. She partnered with In the Making, a nonprofit community resource center in East Los Angeles. The organization works with young people, ages 14 to 24, enabling them to get paid internships and helping them spearhead business plan ideas.

Once Diaz’s mission for Queer Mercado began to take shape, she reached out via Instagram to Gaudencio Marquez, a queer crocheter and owner of Casa de Larrquez.

“That’s how we kind of like started this,” said Marquez. “I saw sort of the queer community intersecting with the Latino community. There’s an opportunity to be able to create a space for Latinx queer community vendors.”

According to the LAist continued, Marquez contacted his good friend of more than ten years, Ryan Montez, to help coordinate vendors and entertainment. Montez had worked as a corporate event coordinator for the past ten years but unfortunately lost his job due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Queer Mercado opened on July 17, and four months later, is now an energizing hub for the LGBTQ+ community and people of color.

The Queer Mercado takes place on the third Saturday of every month from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and is made up of more than 60 vendors, 95% of whom identify as queer, and the remaining 5% are allies. Vendors pay a $65 fee, and funds raised go to the Hilda Solis H.S. student body and local youth employment that helps run the market.

With information from the LAist.