Student Spotlight - Mercedes S. Viera
Mercedes S. Viera DRC’21, a journalism and media major and creative writing minor, is forging a path as a leader in LGBTQIA+ activism. Mercedes is the founder of Rebeldía, an online magazine and media platform for the queer Latinx community and their allies. Promoting queer inclusion and anti-racism, Rebeldía offers news stories, op-eds, and other forms of content in both English and Spanish. Ultimately, Mercedes hopes Rebeldía can transform into a production house that produces and showcases film and art related to the queer Latinx community.
“I want Rebeldía to become a place for people to think, learn, re-evaluate, and express themselves while looking at the future with hope,” said Mercedes. “I want to give everyone the tools and trust-worthy information to fight back against systemic discrimination.”
The idea for Rebeldía began in the form of another online magazine that Mercedes was running while living in Puerto Rico. The publication, Femme Now, highlighted local entrepreneurs and artists. Due to her leadership of Femme Now, Mercedes won the Girlboss Rally GameChanger Scholarship in 2017. However while Mercedes was passionate about the content in Femme Now, she had always envisioned a publication that was more openly queer.
“I wanted Femme Now to be a celebration of ‘girlhood’ and the LGBT community,” said Mercedes, “However, at the time, my parents weren’t very accepting and they fought back on a lot of what I wanted to do with the magazine. So, I molded Femme Now into something else I was still passionate about, but it wasn’t quite what I imagined. A lot of my goals for Rebeldía are what I hoped Femme Now would have become.”
Now, as a journalism student encouraged by a team of like-minded writers and thinkers, Mercedes has the opportunity to create the platform of her dreams. As a publication that focuses on the queer Latinx community, Rebeldía highlights the importance of intersectionality in LGBTQIA+ activism. Much of the platform’s focus examines how various identities, specifically sexuality, gender expression, race, and ethnicity, combine to create unique lived experiences for each person.
“It’s easy to think that every queer person’s experiences are exactly the same, but that’s not reality,” said Mercedes. “Some people face more adversity, both here and in other places around the world. Not everyone is out, not everyone can be out, not everyone is out in the same way or at the same level. That's why intersectionality is so important.”
As a Douglass student and editorial intern on the Douglass Media Team, Mercedes has some valuable advice for her peers who are curious about how they can become better allies to the queer community.
“Sadly, toxic masculinity and homophobia are everywhere, but in some places they're better hidden. Reading, informing yourself, and talking to your friends about gender and sexuality is, in general, a great place to start,” said Mercedes. “The more we communicate, the more we can dismantle the stigma that society creates around queer identities.”
For Mercedes, Rebeldía is also about creating a strong community.
“It’s not just about the news,” she said, “The platform is a space for analysis and expression, particularly from the perspectives of the people these news stories affect. It’s about raising our voices in solidarity.”
To learn more about Rebeldía, please click here.