The Latinx characters we see in mainstream media almost always embody stereotypes—either they’re hypersexualized, ultra-religious, all janitorial workers, or something else limiting. And the same biases play out in written media. But in a new wave of self-published zines, Latinx people are reclaiming their stories in spite of and in response to the overwhelmingly white art and literature scene. La Horchata Zine, Chifladazine, and Muchacha Fanzine are three of these creative platforms making space outside of traditional publishing for Latinx people to express their sexualities, struggles, autonomy, and triumphs in all the complexity that they deserve—by telling their stories on their own terms.
La Horchata Zine
Based in Washington D.C., La Horchata Zine is a seasonal print publication that highlights writers and artists of Central American ancestry. With content spanning from photography showcasing the diversity of brown, queer love to stories about the struggles and sacrifices of parenthood, curators Kimberly Benavides and Veronica Melendez give their readership a glimpse of Latinx poetry, narratives, and visual artistry. La Horchata Zine also foregrounds vital topics being discussed among Latinx activists today, like internalized racism and colorism in Latinx communities.
“I think when [non-Latinxs] people expect a story from us, they are probably anticipating anything [about] immigration, dreamers, or the border,” says Benavides. “That’s not to say you won’t ever find those topics in our zine, or that there is anything wrong with those stories, but we are so much more than that.” She sees La Horchata Zine as a platform for Central American voices who have been overlooked or erased from historical and present narratives. “We are trying to bring forward the creatives who never felt validated,” she says, “and I think in that gamut that we are succeeding.”
Billed as “A Zine for Creative Latinxs,” Chifladazine started in 2014 because the original founders, Claudia Delfina Cardona and Laura Valdez, didn’t see themselves represented in online publications they admired. Chifladazine is currently curated by Cardona and Erika Delgado out of San Antonio, Texas and Oakland, California respectively. According to the publication’s website, the name was chosen because “people of color are often told that they are bratty (chiflada) for wanting more representation in media, art, and literature.” The submission-based online publication regularly features poetry, essays, interviews, photography, visual art, and even music—and the curators’ favorite posts get turned into a print magazine every year.
Through these media, Chifladazine tackles topics like body image, familial relationships, mental illness, and religion in a that speaks uniquely to the Latinx experience. In past volumes, those stories have included Illyana Bocanegra’s “No Te Preocupas, ” in which the author describes the anxiety of losing her grandmother and her fear for what the future holds for her, a Latinx woman who’s chosen not to have children. Joanna Sanchez-Avila’s “Something Wicked Comes this Way, ” digs into the sacrifices parents make for their children, with the author describing how her mother works in an ice cream truck after migrating to the US from Honduras. And “My Father’s Surrogate Mother,” by Erika Delgado, centers on how, after cracking his skull at work, the author’s father began impulsively collecting La Virgen de Guadalupe memorabilia.
“Readers just want to see themselves represented,” says Cardona. “ Chifladazine's mission is to showcase all sorts of narratives and experiences of Latinas and Latinxs, showing that Latinidad is fluid and dynamic, not a static experience.”
Muchacha Fanzine is created in San Antonio, Texas by Daisy Salinas, who describes the publication as, “a DIY Xicana feminist fanzine dedicated to promoting social consciousness and decolonizing minds.” Salinas has been producing the print publication bi-annually since 2010. Muchacha’s current issue, called “Madre Tierra,” explores environmental racism, Indigenous technologies, and the exploitation of the earth’s resources. And the last issue, “The Coalition Issue,” aimed to promote Latinx community-building and bring activists together. Other issues have touched on everything from women in music to decolonizing travel.
“When you make zines, you have the autonomy to reject the norms associated with publishing.” says Salinas. “Zines are a form of therapy—a therapeutic way to share our struggles associated with racism, sexism, abuse, culture, and colonialism. Oftentimes, our art is commodified and sold back to us through the media, and we are continuously made invisible as our art is also culturally appropriated.
“If we don’t tell our stories,” Salinas says, “then our knowledge and contributions will be erased from history. At the end of the day, we can’t expect the mainstream media to do it for us—we must do it ourselves!”