William Calvo-Quirós knows that when someone looks at his work, they may find it a bit psychofrenetic: from studying murals and chupacabras to low-riders and saints, everything is good for the Latin studies professor /has.
“From the outside it looks like this, but to me it makes perfect sense as we unify the experience of Latino life in the United States. And a community has many expressions. of his life,” said Calvo-Quirós. “We are talking about cultural studies and therefore the cultural manifestations of this community.
Born in Costa Rica, Calvo-Quirós immigrated with his family in the late 1980s to Reno, Nevada. His professional career includes his undergraduate degree in industrial design; his first doctorate from the Department of Architecture and Environmental Design at Arizona State University (ASU) for his ethnographic work on the aesthetics of lowriders; and a second Ph.D. from the University of California, Santa Barbara focusing on Chicana and Chicano Studies and “Monsters of Late Capitalism Along the US-Mexico Border: Legends, Epistemologies, and the Politics of the Imagination.”
In this episode of the “Latinx @ Umich” podcast, he explains the importance of finding safe spaces and how lowriders, camp culture and barriología are all connected. He also talks about his new book, “Undocumented Saints, The Politics of Migrating Devotions”.
Additionally, he shares his personal journey as a gay man in Costa Rica, a future priest-turned-scholar, and how the communities he belongs to have helped him on this journey.
“I grew up in a country where I thought for a long time that I would never grow old because I would die of AIDS or be beaten,” he said. “So when my mother made the decision – as a single mother – to migrate to the United States without papers, risking her own health and everything, she created a space for me to exist.
“When my mother decided to embrace me and love me beyond what she understood, she did a revolutionary act,” he continued. “She said, ‘I chose love over what the church says, over what the state says.’ And that moment transformed my family and everything.
Calvo-Quirós says it was by studying the aesthetics of lowriders that he was able to draw a connection between Latinos and “camp,” the aesthetic movement that seeks to exaggerate differences to gain attention.
For lowriders, it could be a bold pink car, adorned with flowers and symbols ordering the police to look, because they knew they were looking anyway.
“Camp is fantastic because it’s disruptive…it’s that kind of over-the-top, extravagant, loud aesthetic. Camp is political because it’s a creative break from the norms of what people should wear or how they should talk. So in that sense, for many communities of color, camp allows them to carve out a space where they say, “I exist in my own differences.”
“I’m outraged because we’re saying we don’t need to be defined by this system, that we can imagine a world where Latinos can fully thrive as a community. So it’s a scandal, because the system can’t imagine that.
“That’s why I say: people, embrace your escándalo. Just be escandalosos. Be proud of who you are.”