I am deeply saddened to announce the passing of Dr. Horacio Roque Ramirez, a groundbreaking scholar-activist in queer and Latino/a oral history, who gave over a decade of devoted service to the Oral History Association. I first met Roque Ramirez in 1998 at the Annual Meeting in Buffalo, New York, where his presentation “Between Sex and Race: Queer Latina and Latino Narratives of Identity” sparked me. At the time few queer oral historians were part of the OHA; Horacio and I quickly bonded and became close colleagues. I had the honor of serving with him on OHA Council in the late 2000s. Earlier that decade, Roque Ramirez co-chaired the Oral History Association’s Committee on Diversity.
Horacio Roque Ramirez and Norma Smith became the visionary and energetic co-chairs of the dynamic, diverse, and fabulously well attended 41st Annual Meeting held in Oakland, California in 2007, the theme of which was The Revolutionary Ideal: Transforming Community Through Oral History. Roque Ramirez and Smith wrote in their introduction to the program, “We take seriously the challenge to transform the OHA annual meeting program into a model for future organizational labor that accounts for difference, diversity, and (in)equality in profound ways.” I think many members of OHA would agree that the Oakland meeting moved the Association in this direction.
Horacio was a dynamic and inspiring speaker at many annual meetings. His presentations included “Sexual Imperialism: Emerging “Queer” Communities in El Salvador, and the Politics of Transnational Identities,” “Narratives of Community Destruction: CURAS and San Francisco Queer Latina and Latino Struggle for AIDS Prevention,” and “Y vos, de donde sos? Transnational Gay Salvadoran Identities in Los Angeles.” He won the 2004 OHA article award for his article “‘That’s MY Place!’: Negotiating Racial, Sexual, and Gender Politics in San Francisco’s Gay Latino Alliance, 1975-1983,” Journal of the History of Sexuality (April 2003): 224-58.
Roque Ramirez was a child survivor of the Salvadorean Civil War. He and his family immigrated to the United States when Horacio was twelve and settled in Los Angeles, California. His activism dated back at least as far as his undergraduate years as a psychology major at the University of California, Los Angeles, where he co-founded the Latin American Students Association and received the Alumni Association’s Outstanding Senior Award in 1992. He went on to earn an MA in history from UCLA in 1994 and then a PhD in Comparative Ethnic Studies, Women, Gender, and Sexuality from UC Berkeley in 2001. He held a postdoc at UCLA, where he focused on Latino immigrant and refugee LGBT communities. Roque Ramirez then joined UC Santa Barbara as part of the core faculty in the first Ph.D. program in Chican@ Studies, where he received tenure and became one of the only Central American professors in the entire UC system. He was an incredible mentor and role model for many, many students at UC Santa Barbara, especially queer students of color.
Horacio co-edited an anthology with Professor Nan Alamilla Boyd, Bodies of Evidence: The Practice of Queer Oral History (Oxford: Oxford University Press), the first book to provide serious scholarly insight into the methodological practices that shape lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer oral histories. At the time of his passing he was working on Queer Latino San Francisco: An Oral History, 1960s-1990s, an ethnographic historical study of the formation and partial destruction of queer Latina and Latino community life in San Francisco over the past forty years. He was also working as an expert witness on political asylum and immigration, gender identity, sexuality, and HIV Status, domestic and gang violence.
May Horacio Roque Ramirez’s activist scholarship, courage, generous spirit, humor, and vision endure and continue to inspire transformative and revolutionary oral history. I hope other members of OHA will share remembrances of our extraordinary oral historian and colleague.
–Irene Reti, Director, Regional History Project, University of California, Santa Cruz Library
Share your memories of Horacio on the OHA Facebook page.