Meet the GLLU Leaders
UNIDAD: Gay and Lesbian Latinos Unidos documentary Interviewees’ Bios
David P. Gonzales (he/him) was born and raised in the Los Angeles area and graduated from UCLA with a BA in Biology and a minor in Chemistry. It is during this time that he identified as a proud gay Chicano. Gonzales volunteered for the Peace Corps and served as an agricultural volunteer and community organizer in rural El Salvador in the late 70s and early 1980s. He was forced to leave due to the raging civil war. In 1981, he co-founded Gay and Lesbian Latinos Unidos (GLLU), secured its non-profit status, founded and edited the UNIDAD newsletter, and was the group’s first President. In 1986, he attended California State University Northridge and received a science teaching credential in the Life and Physical Sciences, leading him to teach high school biology, chemistry, and physics at John Marshall High School in Silver Lake for over 25 years. Gonzales retired from Los Angeles Unified School District in 2019.
Laura M. Esquivel
Laura M. Esquivel (she/her) is a seasoned political and legislative strategist with more than 30 years of grassroots organizing, electoral, and policy advocacy experience. As the Vice President for Federal Policy and Advocacy for the Hispanic Federation founded in 1990, Laura leads its federal advocacy efforts in the areas of immigration, the environment, civil rights, Puerto Rico disaster recovery, rebuilding, equity, LGBTQ issues, education, and health care. Laura was Gay and Lesbian Latinos Unidos (GLLU) first Lesbian President and the group’s third. Esquivel earned a master’s degree in Public Administration from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, and a master’s degree in Political Science from Cal State University Los Angeles and a bachelor’s degree in American Politics. Prior to joining the Hispanic Federation, Esquivel ran a successful strategic consulting firm for political and progressive issue campaigns led by a passion for developing strategic partnershipsto advance movements, not just issues. She has served as the Senior Vice President for Political and Public Affairs at the Gay and Lesbian Leadership Institute which trains LGBTQ candidates to run for office, and the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, the nation’s largest LGBTQ political action committee, and as the Director of Research and Issue Marketing at People for the American Way. She has worked on five U.S. presidential campaigns to engage and motivate Latino voters and has held numerous adjunct faculty positions in political science at California State University and other Los Angeles area colleges. Esquivel was appointed twice by Maryland Governor O’Malley to serve in Senate-confirmed positions including five years as aboard member of the Maryland Civil Rights Commission and three years on the Maryland Legal Services Corporation.
Louis Jacinto (he/him) began photographing in Los Angeles in 1975 and is noted for his iconic images of the Punk Rock music scene in Los Angeles. Both Jacinto and the East Los Angeles art collective ASCO crossed artistic paths throughout the 1970’s and 80’s, most notably in his series of photographs documenting an art exhibit and Punk Rock music show, “GRONKPATSSIPARTY”, curated by ASCO artists Patssi Valdez and Gronk in 1978. Three images from that limited edition series were featured in the ASCO Retrospective which opened in 2011 as part of the regional Pacific Standard Time: Art In Los Angeles 1945 – 1980.
In 1981 and 1982 Jacinto was the official photographer for the Sunset Junction Street Fair in Los Angeles, and it was during this time that he encountered Gay and Lesbian Latinos Unidos (GLLU) and became actively involved in this social and political organizing organization for the next decade. He has exhibited throughout the greater Los Angeles area as well as in dozens of cities in the U.S. and abroad. His work was included in the museum exhibition Axis Mundo: Queer Connections in Chicano L.A., which traveled to eight museums from 2017-2022. Louis was named a 2020 Cultural Trailblazer by the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs. That same year he opened Onodream Gallery, a virtual exhibition venue highlighting
underrecognized artists. He has been a community organizer and has worked at several community-based organizations to improve the lives of children and families.
Lydia R. Otero
Author Lydia R. Otero (they/them) is currently working on a memoir of their life in Los Angeles during the 1980s and early 1990s. During that time, they worked as an electrician, and their labor helped construct some of the most iconic structures in Los Angeles, including the U.S. Bank Tower, Universal Studios’ City Walk, and the Metro Rail. During those years, they also immersed themselves in Gay and Lesbian Latinos Unidos (GLLU). In 1983, Otero was one of the founders of Lesbianas Unidas (LU) and formed the core group that organized the Latina Lesbian Retreats and also co-chaired LU for several years. In 1988 and 1989, they served two terms as GLLU President as the group launched Bienestar: A Gay Latino HIV/AIDS Project, the largest agency of its kind in the U.S.
After leaving GLLU in 1992, Otero acquired a Ph.D. in History and was a tenured professor in the Department of Mexican American Studies at the University of Arizona. They currently live in Tucson, Arizona, and spends most of their time researching and writing. Otero’s past publications include La Calle: Spatial Conflicts and Urban Renewal in a Southwestern City (University of Arizona Press, 2010), focused on a 1966 urban renewal project. In the Shadows of the Freeway: Growing Up Brown & Queer (Planet Earth Press, 2019) merges personal memoir and the historical archive to investigate formative childhood aspects such as environmental racism and unresolved intergenerational trauma. Their book compilation, Notitas:
Select Columns from the Tucson Citizen was released in 2021.
Rita C. Gonazles
Rita C. Gonzales (she/her) began her community involvement in Gay and Lesbian Latinos Unidos (GLLU), the oldest LGBTQ Latino organization in Southern California, where she served as President in 1986. Gonzales has since served on several boards of directors, including Connexxus, an organization for women, the Los Angeles Stonewall Democratic Club, as the co-chair of the people of color committee, the One National Gay and Lesbian Archives, and the OUTFEST committee that established Fusion, the first people of color film festival. She was also
on the advisory board for Women On A Roll, an organization for women seeking alternative recreational activities. Gonzales currently chairs the Bienestar Human Services board of directors, a Latino health education agency that she has been affiliated with since its founding in 1989, and originally a committee of GLLU created at the onset of the HIV/AIDS crisis.
In 1986, Gonzales began her affiliation with radio through the “Radio GLLU” show of which she was a co-host and editor for 11 years. In 1995, she co-hosted the newly formatted show IMRU, one of the longest-running gay and lesbian radio programs in Southern California. Since that time she has worked as a segment producer, technical engineer, board operator, editor, and the executive producer of IMRU. Gonzales is currently co-producing a new LGBT radio webcast program on KPFK called “The Out Agenda”. In 2007, she co-hosted the Christopher Street Pride Parade. She is the recipient of many awards for her activism, including the L.A. LGBT
Center’s LACE Award, CSW/PRIDE Woman of the Year, Honor 41, West Hollywood Rainbow, APAIT Media Award, and the Melissa Etheridge Award. She has two Los Angeles Emmys for her work on an AIDS segment on L.A. KIDS, a children’s program that aired in the 1990s.
Roland Palencia (he/him) is the Community Benefits Director and a corporate trainer at L.A. Care Health Plan, the largest public health plan in the nation. He is the former Executive Director of Clinica Monseñor Oscar A. Romero and Equality California, the multi-County Regional Director at The California Endowment, and Chief of Operations and Vice-President at the AIDS Healthcare Foundation. In 2001, Palencia was honored as a “Local Hero” by KCET (PBS affiliate) and Union Bank of California. In the early 1980s, he became one of the founders and a pioneer of the blossoming LGBTQ Latin@ movement in the greater Los Angeles area, including co-founding Gay and Lesbian Latinos Unidos (GLLU) and becoming the group’ssecond President. He has been featured in a number of books and publications such as “Gay L.A.: A History of Sexual Outlaws, Power Politics, and Lipstick Lesbians” by Stuart Timmons and Lilian Faderman (2006). “Central Americans in Los Angeles” by Rosamaria Segura (2010); and “The Gay Revolution: The Story of the Struggle” by Lilian Faderman (2015). The 165-page Master thesis by David Guzman, M.A. (CSUN 2014) records Palencia’s life journey as a Guatemalan political refugee and community activist. He is the Executive Producer of “TransVisible: Bamby Salcedo’s Story,” a documentary depicting the life and activism of the nationally renowned Trans Latina activist Bamby Salcedo. He received a B.A. in History from UCLA and an M.A. in the Engaged Humanities from Pacifica Graduate Institute. He is a former lecturer at California State University Northridge (CSUN) Central American Studies Departmentand a Professor at CSUN’s Tseng College in the Diverse Community Development Leadership Master of Arts program (Fall 2022).
Veronica Flores currently serves as the Chief Executive Officer of Community Health Councils, Inc, an anchor institution serving the communities of South Los Angeles and beyond. As a seasoned senior-level executive and entrepreneur, Veronica Flores’ professional legacy has been focused on disrupting and dismantling the inequitable systems that continue to drive disparities across the nation.
Flores joined the organization in 2015 during a critical period of restructuring following the unfortunate passing of Lark Galloway-Gilliam, CHC’s founding Executive Director. In the past six years, Flores has completely turned the organization around. Motivated to see the capacity and legacy of the organization continue, Flores spearheaded numerous innovations with her team, including the South LA Food-Tech Hub, The Social Change Institute, and formed a Regional Task Force of elected residents to oversee South LA Decides Community-Based Grant Making, and a South LA Decides Incubator and Accelerator, officially establishing CHC as a significant vehicle for investing in South Los Angeles nonprofits, social impact organizations and entrepreneurs. Flores is currently busy cultivating a pipeline of Social Enterprises to further secure CHC’s future and advance community wealth building opportunities.
Due to her deep desire to cause radical change as an activist committed to racial equity and championing issues related to social justice, poverty, and sustainability, Veronica Flores has always identified herself as a disruptor. Flores’ work as a social disruptor in South Los Angeles commenced in the 1980’s when she began her career with the Minority AIDS Project as the Director of Women’s Programs. In this role, Flores developed and implemented the first Women of Color AIDS Coalition and the first Women of Color Buddy Training Program in LA County while she also penned the first educational brochure in Spanish aimed at women at risk for HIV.
Prior to joining CHC, Flores was the President of Triple Notion, a consultant group providing strategic leadership and capacity building to non-profits, public health agencies, and start-ups seeking to scale multi-cultural social enterprises and initiatives, while increasing financial sustainability. Flores is also a former Adjunct Associate Professor at the University of Southern California - Sol Price School of Public Policy. Until recently, she served as Co-Chair for the Los Angeles County Community Prevention & Population Health Task Force; currently she is an Action Team member addressing the Board motion of Equity in County Contracting; a Taskforce member of Facilitating the Development of a ‘Just Transition’ to Clean Energy; Community Research Ambassador to City of Hope Medical Center; member of Charles Drew University President’s Advisory Council; Advisory Board Member to the California Health Interview Survey (CHIS); Leadership Board Member of the Los Angeles Food Policy Council; Advisory Member to Insure the Uninsured Project (ITUP); and member of South Los Angeles SLATE-Z Economic Development Workgroup.
Flores has received numerous awards, designed, authored and co-authored several journal publications in addition to facilitating awareness and training workshops to hundreds of people, and provided consultant services to diverse service providers, community-based organizations, government agencies and educational institutions in the United States. She received her M.A. in Human and Organizational Development from Fielding Graduate University and her B.A. in Psychology from California State University Los Angeles.
Geneva Fernandez began her community involvement in high school, and then later Gay and Lesbian Latinos Unidos (GLLU), in the early 1980s.