In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Sexualities in Latin America and the Caribbean

  • Introduction
  • Foundational Works and Overviews
  • Anthologies
  • Journals
  • Historical Approaches
  • Literature
  • Culture and Society
  • Sex Work and Tourism
  • Health, AIDS, and Reproductive Politics
  • Sexual Citizenship and Social Movements
  • Transnational Currents and Diaspora

Latin American Studies Sexualities in Latin America and the Caribbean
Justin Perez, Florence E. Babb
  • LAST REVIEWED: 13 January 2021
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 June 2022
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199766581-0140


As elsewhere around the globe, diverse sexual practices and identities are found throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. During the last few decades, scholars and activists have come to view sexuality as critical to our understanding of difference and inequality across societies and through time. Like gender and race, sexuality is generally understood to be historically and culturally constructed, rather than as an essential and unchanging feature of human societies. Because attention to sexuality emerged principally from those concerned that heteronormative sexuality had been taken for granted and non-heteronormative sexuality had been viewed as deviant or as playing a minor part in Latin America and the Caribbean, recent scholarship has more often examined underrepresented groups, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender sexualities. In some times and places, where global, Western identity categories may be unknown or little used, it is more accurate to refer to same-sex sexualities. In what follows, themes taken up include foundational and historical works; ethnographic and cultural studies; research relating to gay men’s, lesbians’, and transgender experiences, reproductive health, and human immunodeficiency virus/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS); sex work and tourism; social movements; and transnational currents in Latin American and Caribbean sexualities. A number of the works included here could be cross-referenced in several sections. There is broad coverage of this growing scholarship, but it is worth noting that books are privileged over articles, and there is greater attention to the social sciences, cultural studies, and history than to literature and the arts. While a somewhat greater number of works examine men’s lives than women’s lives, this trend reflects the more public lives of men as well as the state of research, which in the case of lesbian/gay/bisexual/transsexual (LGBT) and same-sex sexuality in general gives more attention to men’s than to women’s experiences. For related works on women and gender in postcolonial Latin America, see the separate Oxford Bibliographies article on Gender in Postcolonial Latin America.

Foundational Works and Overviews

There are few works that seek to offer a broad overview of sexuality in Latin America and the Caribbean, but several of them offer a useful foundation for further reading. Of the following three works, Wade 2009 is the broadest in scope, introducing readers to the importance of race and sexuality in the region. Foster 1991 addresses themes relevant to gay men and lesbians in its discussion of the region’s literature. And Anzaldúa 1987 is a classic work by a feminist of color who theorizes about the US-Mexico borderlands and its meanings for those living in intersectional spaces.

  • Anzaldúa, Gloria. Borderlands, La Frontera: The New Mestiza. San Francisco: Aunt Lute, 1987.

    Classical work embraced by feminists, Chicano/Chicana studies scholars, and queer activists for its poetic and passionate engagement with questions of gender, race, sexuality, and nation. In writing about the US-Mexican borderlands, Anzaldúa is particularly eloquent regarding the competing communities in which queer individuals of color find themselves in the Latino/Latina diaspora.

  • Foster, David William. Gay and Lesbian Themes in Latin American Writing. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1991.

    Pioneering, foundational work of cultural criticism discussing Latin American literature that takes up LGBT issues. Foster aims to shed light on the Latin American region through his essays focusing mainly on Argentina, Brazil, and Mexico. Charted a needed course for further exploration and helped launch this area of inquiry.

  • Wade, Peter. Race and Sex in Latin America. London: Pluto, 2009.

    Pioneering source theorizing about the commingling of sexuality, gender, and race in Latin America, past and present and offering a broad overview of dynamics of power. Attention to afrodescendant and indigenous women viewed as “other” to dominant sectors; sex tourism; state regulation of sexuality; reproductive and sexual health; and sexual and racial landscapes in social movements.

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