Giving a speech as the student-body vice president, Alberto Mendoza’s ears rang with the chanting of his bullies.
“41! 41! 41″ they cried.
Then, “41″ was a homophobic slur.
Now, it is the name of his project, the number reclaimed as the voice of the LGBTQ Latino community. The online storytelling platform is called Honor41.
Haunted by his memories of the number used to torment him, Mendoza says, “It just kind of kept coming at me in numbers. The time would be 41, and the change would be 41 cents. It seemed like every credit card or every ATM card had the 41 digits.“
On Honor41, forty-one narratives are accessible from LGBTQ Latinos of varying ages and nationalities, sharing their experiences first-hand to help others in the community understand that, though they may not be a particularly visible mainstream community, none in the community are alone.
Thus, 41 designates, not a particular person decried with slander, but the number of people whose voices have come together for this project, ringing a complex and lasting harmony.
”Every time before, when I would see 41 I would just cringe,“ says Mendoza. ”And now it just makes me smile.“
Black, brown, Asian, and First Nations people, for a multitude of reasons, have made their way across the entire globe. In seeking the future or fleeing the past, we have had to emigrate, assimilate, change our names, learn new tongues, abandon customs, forget our histories, leave behind our religions.
Forgive your brothers and sisters who may not speak the language. Be patient with your brothers and sisters who speak with Western accents and stumble through traditional greetings. Love your brothers and sisters who don’t know their cultures and have forgotten their ancestors. It has never been their fault.