by Robin Beaudoin | photo courtesy of Latino Memphis
I think people in the LGBT community are so open-minded and progressive, and very supportive (because they are also under attack)
It is said that when you reach the bottom, there’s nowhere to go but up. Christian Brothers University business school alum Mauricio Calvo professionally spent 10 years of trying different things, and not giving up. “You have to prove yourself,” says Calvo.
Ownership in a tortilleria, and a stint in real estate were two in a series of setbacks where nothing seemed to work. “Everything that I touched went wrong, and I stumbled into this opportunity. My failures made me more human and more empathetic.”
In 2009, Calvo joined Latino Memphis, and found his passion. “I am an immigrant myself, and I’ve had a lot of opportunities, and now felt this call to do something for my own community.”
Calvo plunged into his position as director of Latino Memphis during a difficult time for the group, but has successfully engaged other communities interested in human rights and relationships to expand the group’s prospects for growth.
Probing Memphis for an alliance with the Latino community didn’t take long, Calvo reveals. “We are surrounded by a diverse team, and I love to see groups of people intersect. Yesterday I was talking with Will Batts (director, OUTMemphis), and I told him I find it fascinating that different groups of people are both gay and Latino, or black, or Muslim- more than one group that is struggling. That has expanded our work. Jonathan Cole (Tennessee Equality Project) once told me, ‘We’re fighting a different fight, but we’re fighting the same people.’”
In 2016, in collaboration with OUTMemphis, Focus Mid-South, and Friends for Life, interest and desire to outreach and communicate with the LGBT community took shape in the inaugural PRISMA!, a kickoff celebration for their spring celebration, Fiesta de Brasil. Calvo expects a repeat performance on a new date, and more participation with the LGBT community, “We have just started to scratch the surface. I think people in the LGBT community are so open-minded and progressive, and very supportive (because they are also under attack), and there are many Latinos who are LGBTQ who don’t come out because of cultural fears. These three reasons why it’s important to do way more than what we’re doing. I love what the magazine does, I’m a big fan of (Focus Mid-South publisher) Ray Rico.”
Latino Memphis found that holding PRISMA! on the eve of the festival spread their resources too thin, though the crowd was incredible. A change in date for the event, as well as the addition of a Memphis Pride month event, or parade presence are in talks.
Calvo and artist wife Yancy Villa participated with family and friends in the Immigration March on February 1, a nod to their full-time dedication to equal rights at work and at home. He notes, “It’s more than a 9-to-5 job. It’s a family affair, and we are all involved in different ways. This election has activated a lot of things in the community and in our home. Now Yancy is more into politics, and we talk about it with the kids over dinner: what it means for the children of immigrants, and our friends and the families of the people we serve.” He stresses that because it isn’t how he grew up, the difference is what makes this an awesome time and place to be. “It’s normal for them to see my (male) friends bring their boyfriend to dinner, and whether they decide to date a boy or a girl, it’s normal!”