tatiana de la tierra: The Task of Cataloguing Latina Lesbian Identity

In my search for a topic to present on in my Spanish class this semester, I came across my new favorite LGBTQ author: latina and lesbian activist tatiana de la tierra. In writing this piece I hope to play some part in continuing what she dedicated her life to: making latina lesbian voices visible.

Photo by Rotmi Enciso

 

tatiana de la tierra was born in Villavicencio, Colombia on the 14th of may, 1961. The Columbia of her childhood that she describes is full of coffee beans, farm animals, rivers and beaches, jazz nightclubs, and mountains. She lived in Bogotá, in the El Minuto de Dios neighborhood, with her parents and siblings before moving in with her great grandmother, Genarina, and finally flying to Miami with her parents and siblings.

 

According to de la tierra’s writings, her family hoped that the United States would be a land of opportunity. However, she writes that she “grew up in typical Spanish-speaking immigrant fashion—poor and future-less.” After high school, she attended Miami-Dade Community College, which she graduated from without a declared degree. She then went to the University of Florida in Gainesville with her brother, where she “embarked on a Spiritual Journey that led [her] to Dianic witchcraft, feminism, and ultimately, lesbianism.” She graduated in 1984 with a degree in psychology that she had initially taken up to understand her own mental wounds.

 

She would, however, not directly employ her psychology degree. She worked at a massage parlor after graduating, and eventually went on to a long trip to various women’s music festivals around the country in her VW. On this trip she met latinas and black women who would bring to her attention “the way in which race, culture and ethnicity fit into the larger picture of [her] lesbian identity.”

 

Her emerging “woman of color consciousness” would then lead directly to the publication of Esto no tiene nombre (This has no name), a latina lesbian magazine. The magazine started with as a newsletter for Las Salamandras de Ambiente, a Miami based organization for latina lesbians. However, de la tierra and her co-editors refused to censor the magazine, and Las Salamandras eventually withdrew their support (they were especially shocked by the pornographic content included). This commitment to raising the voices of any and all latina lesbians would continue to represent de la tierra’s work.

 

After Esto, de la tierra continued publishing with conmoción, revista y red revolucionaria de lesbianas latinas. However, the stress of her work and a diagnosis of lupus sent her back to Columbia to try various healing remedies. She then went to the University of Texas in El Paso for an MFA in creative writing, and then to library school at the University at Buffalo. Through her writing and her commitment to finding new ways to catalogue, de la tierra would continue to lift up the voices of latina lesbians for the rest of her life. For a more in-depth version of what has been said so far, please follow this link to de la tierra’s “Long and winding bio.”

 

As she neared the end of her life, tatiana de la tierra renamed herself Suerte Sirena (Lucky Mermaid). To her, the cancer cells taking over her body were evidence of her ultimate metamorphosis, and she would become a mermaid to swim into the cosmic ocean. She called herself “lucky” in the hope that her journey would be blessed with good luck, and ultimately passed on July 31, 2012.

 

Photo by Ina Riaskowa and Rotmi Enciso

 

I encourage anyone interested in tatiana de la tierra to check out her website: delatierra.net. It contains writings on her life, writings on Columbia, poetry, smut, and much more. Her works immortalize herself and the world she knew, and offer a refreshing view of herstory. To end, here is de la tierra.

 

Pathway to Lesbianism

tatiana de la tierra

 

the path to lesbianism implies the renunciation of the path that was already written. everything that you should be and do is replaced with what strikes your fancy.

being a lesbian is a changing of the hands of power. it is true that the power is always ours but many times we allow others to manage it for us. a lesbian reclaims her power.

the ceremony of initiation is a wedding with oneself. walk toward the altar, alone and dressed with the gown of your skin. with each step you leave behind the destiny that was never your own and you get close to that which will be of your making. detain yourself at the entrance to the door of lesbianism. promise to be faithful to yourself, kiss and embrace your own body.

that is how you enter lesbianism:  naked and in love.