As a politically progressive organization led by out-lesbian women of color, we’ve been attacked by government and business leaders; and too often have been undermined by potential allies in the male- and straight-dominated “liberal” or “progressive” communities. At the same time, our clear, consistently progressive commitments continuously draw people to the Esperanza and enable us all to learn the courage and strategies to challenge the many forms of oppression that affect the lives of women, queer people, poor and working class people, and communities of color, and to bring the voices of grassroots communities into discussion of the policies of public and private institutions locally, nationally, and internationally.
Theater presentations like Gaytino, Miss America: A Mexicanito’s Fairy Tale, or Jotos del Barrio fill Esperanza’s performance space. Platicas like Three Poets and a Lawyer brought race and theory together and allowed community members to analyze the defunding of the Esperanza through the voices of Black, Chicana, and White lesbians. Art exhibits such as the first AIDS shows These presentations are just a few examples that bring in queer people, their families and their allies into a space that they can call home.
City of San Antonio’s Non-Discrimination Ordinance was voted into city law on September 5, 2013; Esperanza played a pivotal role in the passage of San Antonio’s non-discrimination ordinance by joining a loose coalition known as CAUSA, community members in meetings and on the streets. Many of the planning meetings prior to the vote occured at the Esperanza Center, a historically safe space for LGBT organizing efforts. The existing ordinance was amended to extend legal protection against discrimination to the LGBT community in public accommodations, housing, city contracts and city employment. This was a hard-won fight, as the religious right from different parts of the U.S. funneled money into the city in an effort to galvanize locals in a misinformation campaign designed to defeat the amendment.To this day, the NDO continues to face backlash and shortcomings, but through the support of the Esperanza community and CAUSA members are able to continue meeting at little to no costs.
Esperanza Peace and Justice Center vs. City of San Antonio
Following an Esperanza lesbian and gay film festival in 1997 (Out at the Movies), local right-wing extremists cut City funding to the organization. This led to a four-year legal battle to reclaim our rights to public funding. Consequently, we won a federal lawsuit against the City, placing Esperanza and San Antonio at the forefront of the national grassroots struggle to defend cultural expression. This was the first U.S. case addressing race and ethnicity in public arts funding and the first case asserting rights of cultural integrity for minority communities within U.S. law. The trial and concurrent Arte es Vida campaign created bonds with thousands of supporters in our community and around the globe.