When Jose L. Plaza came to Washington in 2012 as a fellow with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, he says he “fell in love with the District.”
Born in Guanajuanto, Mexico, Plaza’s family immigrated to a small farming town in Southern California when he was 5. He works by day as director for Latino engagement for Enroll America and is pursuing doctoral studies at the University of Southern California in educational leadership. He’s passionate about work with the migrant, undocumented and Latino populations and is working to “close gaps in access, equity and achievement.”
In 2013, he joined the board of directors of the Latino GLBT History Project and he’s co-chaired D.C. Latino Pride. He will succeed David Perez as the group’s president soon
Plaza is single and lives in NOMA with his dog, Archie. He enjoys cooking, travel, politics, education, immigrant rights and many kinds of advocacy work in his free time as well as playing on the Ball Busters in the Stonewall Kickball League.
How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell?
The hardest part was coming out to myself and continually allowing myself to be OK with it. Yet, early on I realized that my sexuality did not define me anymore than me being male, Mexican, dark-skinned, having been undocumented, educated or an immigrant.
Who’s your LGBT hero?
All LGBT people of color living above challenges and still enjoying life, our trans brothers and sisters fighting for a space and recognition not only in our community but in society as a whole and the queer dreamers fighting not only for their rights, but setting the marker as to what activism can do for a nation and a movement.
What’s Washington’s best nightspot, past or present?
I won’t name names, but D.C. nightlife has left me a bit wanting overall.
Describe your dream wedding.
I am a hopeless romantic and could go down the list from the harpist and violinists at the ceremony to the fireworks show to close off the night as we overlook from dimly lit gazebo. But having my closest friends, family, my pup, and of course “the one” would make my wedding a dream fulfilled. Did I mention Idris Elba played a leading role in this picture?
What non-LGBT issue are you most passionate about?
Education and health both in terms of access and quality and how to work to better them for our most disenfranchised communities.
What historical outcome would you change?
None. I am a true believer that we learn from our mistakes and until we do so, we will continue repeating that same cycle.
What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime?
Being in D.C. when President Barack Obama was elected into office for his second term and getting to witness his swearing-in at the National Mall.
On what do you insist?
To meet me halfway and give as much as I give of myself.
What was your last Facebook post or Tweet?
A picture commemorating Cesar Chavez, the Mexican-American farmworker and organizer who did so much farmworker rights.
If your life were a book, what would the title be?
“A collection: Short stories on how to live life even if you lost the manual”
If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do?
Plan for a larger Latino Pride Celebration. Can you imagine the influx to our community?
What do you believe in beyond the physical world?
I do believe in a higher power. How that is manifested for me might be very different than it is for others, but faith is a path of self-discovery.
What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders?
Never give up and never be silent!
What would you walk across hot coals for?
World peace or to end child hunger.
What LGBT stereotype annoys you most?
I think all stereotypes and generalizations are equally annoying. I think we are also all at fault when perpetuating some of them, but as a community we continue to grow and learn.
What’s your favorite LGBT movie?
“Trick.” I’m not gonna lie — there have been times I’m in the Metro and I wish I could recreate that movie!
What’s the most overrated social custom?
I don’t know about overrated, but I can tell you about some underrated social customs like saying, “Bless you” or, “please” and “thank you” or letting older ladies take your seat on the metro.
What trophy or prize do you most covet?
Covet isn’t a good word. I’d rather earn than covet.
What do you wish you’d known at 18?
What I knew at 18. I have thoroughly enjoyed growing up and learning not only about my potential but about the silver lining all those times I tripped and had to start again.
Because it would lead me to become the third president of the Latino History Project and ring in our 15th year anniversary and celebrate another amazing D.C. Latino Pride!