Alex Martinez visited Eastern Oregon University on April 24 at 6:30 pm to talk about his life as an undocumented, queer poet and activist. He told the story of how he got into the United States at a young age and of his experiences with being queer.
Martinez was born into a poverty-struck family in Mexico. When he was little, his mother sent him to live with his grandmother because she couldn’t afford to have him live with her. In 2005, when Martinez was 14 years old, his grandmother gave him to a group of strangers who assisted him over the border. They walked through the desert for five days without water but eventually made it. When talking about this experience, Martinez said, “I share my story not, so people feel bad for me, but so no more children have to come [to the United States] without their parents.”
Martinez also talked about the differences between the United States and Mexico when it comes to being queer. He said that in Mexico, it is more acceptable to be queer than in the United States. While 13 years old, he was caught kissing another boy. He had never thought much about it; it was just something that he enjoyed doing. When he was caught, Martinez’s grandmother explained homosexuality to him and was very accepting. When he arrived in the United States, he was shocked to find out that people made fun of him for his sexual orientation.
When Martinez got older, he became an activist for not only undocumented persons but for queer people as well. He is part of many groups including the Kansas/Missouri Alliance and Resistencia. Resistencia is a group of five brown queer poets who speak about empowerment and diversity.
At the end of Martinez’s talk, he told the audience how to dismantle the racial issues that are happening at the person-to-person level in the United States. He gave these three steps: 1. Invite people to the table; 2. Get to know us, find things in common; 3. Show up to listen, not to tell us you are not a racist.
Martinez believes that the way to get past racial barriers is to add people of color to the table. As a undocuQueer activist, Martinez believes this: “When we tell a story, we can relate to other humans to find common ground.” So talk to someone different than you, and you may find that they are not so different after all.