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Introduction
Joan Biren (JEB)
Loretta Ross
 > Carmen Vázquez

Voices of Feminism Oral History Project
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The Power of Women's Voices

Carmen Vázquez

Carmen Vázquez was born in 1949, the oldest of seven children of Carmen and Claudiver Jorge Vázquez in Puerto Rico. She was raised in Harlem among her six siblings. She attended the City University of New York where she earned a Bachelors in English and a Masters in Education. After graduating, Vázquez moved to San Francisco where she lived and worked for almost two decades, becoming a leading activist in causes ranging from immigrant rights to lesbian health.

Carmen Vázquez
Carmen Vázquez, 1996
Photo by Liz Neat
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Young Carmen Vázquez with family, undated

While in San Francisco, Vázquez co-founded the Women's Building, became the Executive Director of the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights and then the Coordinator of Lesbian and Gay Health Services for the San Francisco Department of Public Health. She was also the co-founder and co-chair of Somos Hermanas, a Central American Women's Solidarity Network.

She returned to New York City in 1994 where she has continued her activist work as Director of Public Policy for the LGBT Community Center (1994-2003), as Deputy Director for Empire State Pride Agenda (2003-2007) and in her current post as Coordinator of the LGBT Health and Human Services Unit of the AIDS Institute, New York Department of Health.

Journal cover, 1977 View enlarged image
cover and page of Vázquez's journal, 1977-78

Cultural mutation is a necessary prerequisite for immigrant survival in America. It
has cost some of us the loss of our homelands and the memory of our mothers' songs.
But it has also given us reason to invent and celebrate a new identity, a new people.
I am one of them.

From Carmen Vázquez's unpublished memoir, "An Ame-Rican Butch Story"

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Postcard to Carmen Vázquez from Nicaragua
(click on postcards to read message on reverse)
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Postcard to Carmen Vázquez from San Francisco, 1991
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Stage pass and program for March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay, and Bi Equal Rights and Liberation, 1993
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Greeting card sent to Carmen Vázquez, 1981
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Memorabilia from the Carmen Vázquez Papers
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"Promote the Vote" T-shirt
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"I Do, Because Love is Love" T-shirt
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"Operation Truth About Iraq" dogtag
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Carmen Vázquez's tie

Political button and delegate's floor pass from the Democratic National Convention, Boston, Mass., 2004

 
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Carmen Vázquez at
March for Women's Lives,
Washington, D.C., 2004
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March for Women's Lives
speaker pass, 2004

The Carmen Vázquez Papers are part of the Sophia Smith Collection.

Voices of Feminism Oral History Project
 
In her oral history, Vázquez describes her early childhood in Puerto Rico and growing up in New York City, first on the Lower East Side, then in Harlem. Vázquez is forthcoming about her personal life during this time and covers issues such as racism, family dynamics, religion and sexuality. Vázquez describes her political awakening and early activism, beginning with the student protests at City College and Puerto Rican independence efforts. She describes in depth her movement from antiracism and socialist activism into the women's movement and then queer politics. Vázquez's interview is particularly strong and nuanced around issues of classism, racism, and sexism in social change movements. She offers keen insights into the successes and failures of these movements and an uncompromising vision for meaningful coalition building. (Transcript 93 pp.)
 
    Read the full transcript of Carmen Vázquez's oral history
 
     Watch video excerpt
 
(See also the joint interview with Carmen Vázquez and Dorothy Allison).


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 © 2009 Sophia Smith Collection, Smith College, Northampton, MA 01063 Page last updated on Monday, 27 January 2014