In pursuit of creating strong leadership and community within local gay Latinos, Rodrigo Garcia and Omar Nuñez founded Colectivo Acción Latina de Ambiente, ALA, as a volunteer-run grassroots organization in 2011. Before this, Rodrigo had founded De Ambiente, a youth support group for young gay Latinos at Outlet. Having been involved in this and at Aguilas (an intervention program for bisexual and gay Latinos in San Francisco), Rodrigo had already seen the benefits of creating a Latino-based LGBTQ support group. Seeing the lack of organizations — especially in absence of ProLatino — Rodrigo linked up with Omar, who was working at the PACE Clinic and former ProLatino organizer. Together, along with the assistance of AACI (Asian Americans for Community Involvement) and the Billy DeFrank Center, Colectivo ALA was formed. The first meeting was on August 1, 2011. Ugho Badú (a.k.a. Hugo Badillo) was the first program coordinator. The mission of Colectivo ALA has and continues to be about providing a space for the freedom of expression, individual growth, and community building for LGBTQ Latinos and Latinas.
Colectivo ALA offers group sessions covering a wide array of topics. From HIV/PrEP, Sexual Health to Cultural Traditions and Identity to Social Media and Political Asylum, the organization has done their best to provide assistance for any issue the community brings to the table. They host a number of different programs and activities such as ALA, which is a bi-weekly meeting at the Billy DeFrank Center (on Zoom now due to COVID-19). Furthermore, there are many single-event activities to promote community participation, social interaction, and advocacy for the group, through participating in Pride and an annual summer weekend retreat for 40 gay or bisexual men members. As for art production, Teatro Alebrijes is a theater ensemble put together that creates LGBTQ Latinx-themed productions. Another part of Colectivo ALA is to welcome others into the group, including those from outside of the area to make everyone feel welcome while celebrating their cultural uniqueness.
You can learn more about Colectivo ALA at their website.
“And now we have in these meetings not only folks from the Bay Area, we have folks from Puerto Rico and Mexico. We have a guy from Boston, another guy from Michigan. So it has expanded… because there were places like De Ambiente like Colectivo ALA, where LGBTQ Latinx people have the opportunity to, to practice and become confident and feels empowered. You know, with people like that, these guys are able to take on leadership roles. And I hope that one of them, one day, feel inspired to do something more — but it starts from there, from nurturing those two spaces. When we came up with the idea of Colectivo ALA, we didn’t have anything, but there were allies who were supporting us with the resources that they had.” — Rodrigo Garcia