Latino Studies

, Volume 5, Issue 1, pp 25–52 | Cite as

Latinos on DA Down Low: The Limitations of Sexual Identity in Public Health

  • M Alfredo González


Tying HIV prevention to sexual identity has been an effective public health strategy. However, HIV infection among young Latino/a and African Americans continues to mount. “On the down low,” a youth term for secretive or undercover, has become a code for the furtive same-sex sexual practices of young men who reject Gay or bisexual identities. This phenomenon received the attention of African Americans but Latino communities have largely, ignored it. Based on ethnographic observations in a Hip Hop club in New York City, and on postings in cyberspace, this paper documents the presence of Latino youth in “down low” networks. It asks whether the historical and political construction of ethno-racial identities in forms emerging sexual practices and identities, begging a review of established HIV prevention efforts.


HIV prevention Down low Latinos urban youth identity sexuality Hip Hop 



An earlier version of this paper was written for the conference “Latino Sexualities in the United States: Exploring an Interdisciplinary Research Agenda for the 21st Century” organized by the Center for Gender, Sexuality & Health of the Mailman School of Public Health of Columbia University. I would like to thank Miguel Muñoz-Laboy for inviting me to make a contribution to this event. Alex Carballo-Diéguez guided me to the work of Héctor Carrillo. Angelica Bocour, Arlene Dávila, Shirley Lindenbaum; and Sabiyha Prince read, commented and encouraged me on earlier drafts of this paper. I would like to acknowledge the support of Suzanne Oboler and Karen Benita Reyes, as well as the comments of the anonymous reviewers of Latino Studies. Their observations have improved this text. I claim ownership of the weaknesses that remain in it.


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Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan Ltd 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • M Alfredo González
    • 1
  1. 1.Queens College, CUNYNew York

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