Latino LinQ is transforming a giant blank wall on Buford Highway into a vibrant mural that reflects the area’s culture and identity.
For several years now, the nonprofit has been providing access to healthcare information in the language residents need. It’s also expanded access to HIV testing to promote well-being for Latinx LGBTQ communities in the Atlanta area.
Eric Rangel, president of Latino LinQ, said it’s now boosting those efforts through art.
“We want this wall to represent the community that lives here,” Rangel said. “This area is the epicenter of culture and diversity. The simple fact that the wall is next to a sidewalk where someone can just walk along and admire it makes this the perfect location.”
The wall is in front of the law firm Cruz and Associates on Buford Highway overlooking Interstate 85 and the Mexican Consulate.
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Latino LinQ received a $40,000 grant from Welcoming America as part of its Fund to Foster Belonging program to create the mural. It’s intended to “foster belonging among and between immigrant and non-immigrant communities.”
Humberto Orozco, former president of Latino LinQ, said he’s been working on the project for more than a year and is excited to see it completed later this summer.
“We’re looking to do a celebration mid-August and hope that it will be a community event,” Orozco said. “In a nutshell, what I want this project to highlight is the vibrancy and the diversity that exists here and for people to really see that every day as they drive by.”
Latino LinQ is commissioning Yehimi Cambrón Álvarez to be its mural artist. Born in Mexico and raised in Atlanta, Cambrón Álvarez has painted many murals highlighting immigrants throughout the area.
One of her murals of monarch butterflies is just up the road at the Latin American Association, where Latino LinQ held a series of community dialogues earlier this year to help guide her toward the type of images she should populate the mural with.
Jonathan Peraza Campos was one of the volunteers who helped facilitate the events — in English and Spanish. They were open to everyone.
“There’s no one way to be Latino,” Peraza Campos said. “There’s also Asian neighbors, Black neighbors, who help us define the identity of Buford Highway. So, we really emphasized how amazing it is for folks who are immigrants to have their country represented around them.”
“This mural to me is kind of a flag in the ground that we are here to stay. This is our community, this is who we are, and we are more than what any simplified images of us have to say about us.”Latino LinQ volunteer Jonathan Peraza Campos
Peraza Campos said there was some queer and transgender representation at the events who spoke about the challenges of being trans in Atlanta, particularly trans-Mexican immigrants.
“We spoke about how even though Latino LinQ is leading this conversation, there weren’t as many queer folks in the audience, but the ones that were there emphasized that we have always been here,” Peraza Campos said. “We have always been part of the fabric of Buford Highway.”
“There are historic institutions for the LGBTQ community that are no longer here,” he continued, “but at one point helped be part of the project of inclusivity here, and there’s so much more to do and work to be done to make sure that it can be an inclusive community for everybody, including LGBTQ people.”
Peraza Campos said he hopes the mural becomes a “counternarrative to everything that is said and done to Buford Highway.”
“We are more than delinquency, tacos and burritos,” Peraza Campos said. “We are a community of diverse people who are always working day-by-day, who do not deserve to be pushed out of our neighborhoods. So, this mural to me is kind of a flag in the ground that we are here to stay. This is our community, this is who we are, and we are more than what any simplified images of us have to say about us.”
In addition to the mural, Latino LinQ is collaborating with the Infectious Disease division at Emory School of Medicine, Latino Community Fund and StopHIVATL to develop a linguistically and culturally competent health navigation research program.
The project, CREEMOS, which means, “We believe,” in Spanish, is intended to help Latinx individuals gain free access to local sexual health services via a health navigator. The trained, bilingual team member will guide them through services and testing options.
This story is part of the ongoing series Beyond Pride, in which WABE reporters take a deeper look at the issues affecting LGBTQ people in Georgia. Plus, hear LGBTQ Atlantans in their own words, check out a Pride events calendar running through the fall, LGBTQ coverage from other NPR stations across the South and more.