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The Student News Site of San Francisco State University

Golden Gate Xpress

The Student News Site of San Francisco State University

Golden Gate Xpress

Mardi Gras event spreads nostalgia, awareness

The Queer Alliance saw a low turnout at its event but supported one of its members in celebrating the holiday
Gustavo Hernandez
Tria Rosa Valbuena, treasurer and digital designer of Queer Alliance, (left) Lily Eiselt, Director (center) celebrate Mardi Gras this year by constructing mini parade floats and face masks on Feb. 20, 2024 (Gustavo Hernandez / Golden Gate Xpress)

Queer Alliance gathered in the Creative Arts building and celebrated Mardi Gras with several different arts and crafts projects on Feb. 20. 

Tria Rosa Valbuena, the treasurer and digital designer of Queer Alliance, established the event to create a home away from home. Originally from Galveston, Texas, she celebrated Mardi Gras every year. In school, Valbuena would make mini parade floats out of tissue boxes. The event served as an opportunity to not only embrace her nostalgia for the holiday but also allow other students to participate. 

At the event, Queer Alliance members turned tissue boxes into parade floats. Heels were cut out of construction paper, and the bottoms of the tissue boxes were decorated. There were rainbow-colored feathers, sticks on jewels and markers to decorate the parade floats and traditional Mardi Gras masks. Silver, gold and black beads were free to take and wear during the event as well. 

Alexander Vern, a creative writing student, used to celebrate Mardi Gras with his family by making king cake, a traditional Mardi Gras dessert. During his time at the event, Vern created a mini parade float. He left in the middle of the event to go to class, rejoining the group later to finish his float. 

“I’m just reminiscing on the fact that we used to celebrate this as a family, but this is kinda a solo thing because I want to experience things for myself,” Vern said, who thinks Mardi Gras has origins in the queer community. “And it’s a pretty fun holiday.” 

This year, Mardi Gras took place on Feb. 13. The holiday is celebrated on Fat Tuesday, 47 days before Easter and one day before Ash Wednesday. 

“We’re just supporting her [Tria] and making this event happen to celebrate the culture, especially because it’s around the time of the holiday,” said Remy Dorfman, the Queer Alliance’s outreach coordinator. 

The event did see a low turnout, but four members of Queer Alliance joined in the activities. Despite the low turnout, it served as a chance for the Queer Alliance to bond, according to the organization. Planning for its next event, where the group will be showing the film“Bottoms,” is underway. 

“It’s really difficult on this campus to let students know about events and that is something that, with all the groups I’ve been involved in, we struggled with,” said Lily Eiselt, the Queer Alliance director. “For a variety of reasons, but mostly because the locations where you can put up flyers are often out of the way and not in the main pathways where people are walking.” 

Tria Rosa Valbuena, treasurer and digital designer of Queer Alliance is seen posing on campus on Feb. 20,2024. (Gustavo Hernandez / Golden Gate Xpress) (Gustavo Hernandez)

Valbuena has fond memories of celebrating Mardi Gras. She created the event to protest against anti-transgender policies in Texas that make it unsafe to return to her home state. Ultimately, though, celebrating Mardi Gras in California lets her celebrate what she loves about Texas.

“It’s heartbreaking to love a place that doesn’t love you back,” Valbuena said. “And celebrations like these remind me that there is more to Texas than its hatred –– that there’s fun and there’s love. It has the potential to be that again.”  

Valbuena moved to San Francisco with her mother after she received a pay raise. Valbuena is Colombian and has dual citizenship in Colombia and the United States. According to Valbuena, it is safer for her to visit Colombia than Texas.

Valbuena remembers her mother pulling her along on a wheel barrel float with her classmates and parents behind her. She recalled having a gigantic tub of specialty beads. She misses Texas but doesn’t want to constantly feel unsafe while living in the state. 

“You can’t really live in Galveston without participating in Mardi Gras,” said Valbuena about her time in Texas. 

The other members of Queer Alliance joined Valbuena in celebrating the holiday. Nati Regalado, the assistant director at Queer Alliance, values their friendship with Valbuena, who they described as nurturing. 

“I love Tria; I actually look up to them,” Regalado said. “There’s something about Tria that I feel like I haven’t explored. Tria is very true to themselves. They know what’s up and they know what they are talking about. I feel like in my own journey as someone who is queer, I stopped caring about labels, where people put me category-wise. That’s why I feel like [Tria and I] complement each other because I can trust that they know what’s up.” 

According to the director of Queer Alliance, the club has been around for decades but was impacted by the pandemic. Opposition to the Riley Gaines event fueled the student organization’s recovery.  At the time, there was only one LGBTQ+ club on campus — the Queer and Trans Resource Center. The Queer Alliance was formed to provide more community to queer students and establish a safe space for them to build community.

“[The Queer Alliance] is a safe space because last spring there was no safe space,  nowhere for people to go and vent their troubles besides the Queer and Trans Resource Center,” Valbuena said. “The members had to create their own community after not feeling protected by the school.” 

The Queer Alliance hosts events every other Tuesday on campus. Its office is located on the second floor of the Cesar Chavez Student Center. 

This story has been edited for accuracy.

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About the Contributors
Natalie Metcalf
Natalie Metcalf, Staff Reporter
Natalie Metcalf (she/her) is a staff reporter from the Golden Gate Xpress. She is majoring in journalism and minoring in creative writing. She was born in New York City and raised in Los Angeles. Metcalf has previously worked as The Valley Life editor at The Valley Star, the independent student newspaper at Los Angeles Valley College. During her free time, she enjoys reading, journaling, writing poetry and making themed Spotify playlists.
Gustavo Hernandez
Gustavo Hernandez, Photographer
Gustavo Hernandez (he/him) is a staff photographer for golden gate xpress. He is double majoring in journalism (photojournalism) and BECA. He currently lives in a San Francisco where you can catch him dodging potholes on his white Vespa. He has contributed freelance photo stories for Mission Local with the ambition for more future published works.

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