Pride Spotlight: Julio Salgado

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Julio Salgado: Undocumented "Artivist"

This Pride Month, join LIRS in honoring and celebrating several prominent LGBTQ+ immigrants in recognition of their vital contributions to our country.

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Today, we celebrate Julio Salgado, an undocumented, queer “artivist” who creates visual art to contribute to the migrants rights movement. Much of his art is centered around coming out of the shadows and publicly acknowledging his undocumented and queer identities.

Julio’s family came to the U.S. from Mexico when he was eleven. While they were visiting L.A., Julio’s younger sister developed a serious kidney infection. The family decided to remain in California so that she could receive adequate treatment. Julio credits his parents for making the courageous and responsible decision to remain in the U.S. to save their child’s life, despite the consequences of being undocumented in America.

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Julio began his artistic career as an editorial cartoonist for his school newspaper at California State University, Long Beach. He is currently a co-founder of DreamersAdrift and project manager for CultureStrike. 

DreamersAdrift is a media platform that was created in 2010 to empower young undocumented immigrants to tell their stories through art, music, videos, and poetry. Its original mission was to bring attention to the DREAM Act, a bill that if passed, would have given undocumented youth a path to citizenship. DreamersAdrift humanizes the experiences of undocumented immigrants and provides a face for the migrants rights movement. CultureStrike is an organization that collaborates with artists to challenge anti-immigrant sentiment and promote shared humanity. It provides marginalized communities the resources and connections to create art, particularly art that highlights social justice issues such as migrants rights and climate change.

One of Julio’s prominent projects is his “I am UndocuQueer!” project, which sought to give undocumented, queer immigrants a voice in the discussion of migrant rights. Julio created portraits of these immigrants that explored the intersection of their queer and undocumented identities. His “I Exist” collection was created specifically for the DREAM Act and to address the dehumanizing language used in anti-immigrant discourse. In an interview with MIT’s Center for Civic Media, Julio expressed that the collection was a personal declaration for acknowledgement in the face of those who erase immigrants’ identities and existence. 

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Julio’s work exists at the often overlooked intersection of queer and undocumented identities. In an interview with Southern California Public Radio, Julio talks about the challenges he has faced with what he terms as “coming out twice” – as both queer and undocumented. He explains that when someone advocates for social justice, it must be done across the board for all identities. Much of his art features individuals who champion the LGBTQ+ and migrant rights movements. He says that “it’s [his] small homage to their braveness and hard work.”

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