Julio Salgado is a gay Mexican artist who uses his platform to beautifully express stories and values from both undocumented and queer communities. His identity as an undocumented queer activist has fueled his artwork– artwork which depicts themes such as the Dream Act, youth-led activism, and LGBT inclusion. His creative work serves as a call to action to end oppressive migrant detention, deportation, and inequalities for both immigrants and the LGBT community. Salgado’s art resonates with both the immigrant and LGBT experience, as his art pertains to the idea of rising from oppression to live life as your authentic self unapologetically.
Primarily, Julio Salgado’s motivations behind sharing his artwork come from both the desire to control his feelings regarding his experiences and the treatment of immigrant communities in the United States. As he explains in a KCET interview, “I can't control a lot of things, but I can control my art. So it was my way of controlling how I was feeling. As artists, I always say that we're blessed to be able to use this form of therapy.” In this way, his art began as a coping mechanism while navigating his way through college as an undocumented student. The mass deportations in 2010 alongside the resistance to these deportations were also large motivators for him to begin sharing his art. Specifically, the youth-led “Trail of Dreams” mobilization, which involved a march from Florida to Washington, DC, inspired him to become involved with the migrant movement for justice.
As a result of this inspiration, he shared the “I Exist Collection” of art, which is related directly to the Dream Act. Salgado explains this collection was created to address the substantial amount of dehumanizing language of anti-immigrant discourse in the United States. Further, he reminds his audience through his work that the success of pushing the national conversation towards immigrants’ rights was accomplished by queer members of the undocumented community. As he explains, his art “was for our communities to understand that if we're talking about accepting people or creating policy that doesn't criminalize us, we can think about other folks who are also part of our communities.”
Furthermore, Salgado talks about how the constant criminalization of immigrants in the United States has become normalized and ingrained into society. “A lot of us have even been guilty of saying, you know, ‘I’m in this country, it wasn’t my fault, it was my parents’ fault.’ And when we’re saying that, we’re helping this narrative of criminalizing parents for being responsible and courageous.” As a consequence, Julio Salgado continues to use his artwork and platform to reject this dehumanization of immigrant and queer communities, encouraging unconditional acceptance for all members of the “UndocuQueer” communities as well as calling to question the very notion of being “illegal”. Regardless of how people enter the US, no one should be made to feel less than or guilty for their own identity; Julio Salgado effectively conveys this in this statement, calling into question why immigrants, both legal and undocumented, are dehumanized to this extent.
Alongside his art, he has co-founded DreamersAdrift alongside Jesus Iniguez, and is the story telling manager for the Center for Cultural Power. DreamersAdrift is an online website created to humanize the experiences of undocumented individuals in college. The website allows for these students to share their own testimonios and personal experiences while navigating through college life as an undocumented and/or queer student. This project was created as a result of the failures of the US government to fully pass the Dream Act, legislation that would allow undocumented students that entered the US as children to gain legal residency while obtaining higher education.
In the name of this movement towards acceptance, Julio and the founders of the DreamersAdrift decided to dedicate an ofrenda to the dreams of undocumented students within the Dreamers movement during a Dia de los muertos celebration. He explains making the altar, and how it was “not sad…representing not the death for Dreams, but [a] celebration of Dreams that [have] not come.” Alongside the ofrenda, they recorded a video that became known as “Dia de los Sueños,” or Day of Dreams. In this video, they explained the key provisions of the Dream Act as well as what it would mean for undocumented students to receive a college degree while taking advantage of the protection this act provides. Clearly, these actions serve as powerful reminders of how both LGBT and immigrant communities can collaborate to create meaningful change that emphasizes inclusion.
Returning to Salgado’s art, his most relevant pieces regarding the topic of LGBT inclusion come from the “I am UndocuQueer” poster series created in 2013. UndocuQueer is the intersection of both queer and undocumented identity. This term is very important to him, as there still exist a lot of religious groups in the immigrant community who refuse to acknowledge the plight of LGBT individuals within the migrant movement as well. In a fight for social justice, Julio Salgado believes you cannot pick and choose who should be considered worthy of equality in this country. These identities often intersect: being a part of both communities simultaneously can intensify and shape the very nature of discrimination experienced, which is why Salgado emphasizes this term “UndocuQueer” to explain the relationship between these two intersecting identities. There is no difference between either community when it comes to deserving equal treatment and respect; therefore, his art highlights the struggles present for both the LGBT and immigrant communities simultaneously.
Clearly, Julio Salgado is a talented UndocuQueer artist with a great heart and passion for advocating for the rights of both immigrant and LGBT communities. Whether through art, documentaries, or protests, Salgado continues to provide a creative voice that emphasizes the importance of collaboration and acceptance to achieve social equality. As he affirms, “Hey, you know, nobody’s gonna come and rescue us. We gotta sort of do it on our own. . . there was a collaboration of organizers and I was just kinda like, ‘Let's work together.’” Julio Salgado’s work to decriminalize the immigrant experience while maintaining the importance of queer inclusion within the movement makes him an inspiring pioneer within a larger social rights movement, effectively encouraging others to collaborate for justice as well.
Arguably Julio Salgado’s most famous piece of artwork, a piece aimed at addressing the dehumanization of immigrants and LGBT youth in the United States. Salgado also addresses the intersectionality of his sexuality and race in his other artwork to portray his indignation at inequalities. Courtesy of https://www.juliosalgadoart.com/