Meet Miguel

By Staff, May 2018 Web Exclusive.

Meet Miguel Arriaga, one on the many voices included in the new documentary You Racist, Sexist Bigot. For Echo's complete coverage of the film, visit "All We Want is Justice, All We Need is Love."

Echo caught up with Arriaga to find out more about him and his experience working with filmmakers Matty Steincamp and Pita Juarez, and here’s what he had to say.

Echo: First, tell us a little bit about yourself.

Arriaga: I’m a 28-year-old cisgender, gay, Hispanic male. I am the kitchen manager at Green New American Vegetarian. My partner, Mason, and I we will be celebrating our first anniversary in April.

Echo:How long have you lived in Phoenix and, if you are a transplant, where are you originally from?

Arriaga: I’ve lived in Phoenix for 10 years, but I grew up in the small farm town of Winter Haven, Calif.

Miguel Arriaga.

EchoWas there a distinct moment when you realized this is your community?

Miguel: Being raised in a small town, I always struggled with finding a social circle of like-minded individuals. I have to say that my first pride was the first time I felt truly free and part of something bigger.

EchoWould you like to share or summarize the point at which you came out and how those around you responded?

Arriaga: I came out when I was 18 and I received much love from friends and family. My mom didn’t react so well when I first told her. We had many arguments, but there was always a lot of love and affection coming from both my parents. It’s hard to understand the parent/child dynamic when you yourself are a child. Sometimes parents learn from their children and that’s OK.

EchoAt this point in your journey, do you consider yourself an activist?

Arriaga: I wouldn’t say that I’m an activist. I don’t feel that I’m as involved as I could be. Managing a restaurant can be time restraining, but I do like to support different minority groups such as one•n•ten and TQP.

EchoHow did you first meet Matty and Pita? What was it like working with them?

Arriaga: I first met Matty through his partner, Tracy. Tracy is the owner of a vegan boutique called Strawberry Hedgehog and she’s also my friend. I’ve been using her soaps and numerous other products for years. Pita and I met at a Trans Queer Pueblo event. Pita has such an honest and approachable personality. Both Pita and Matty are dedicated and hard-working individuals. They also are some of the funniest and unique people I know. Working with them was a very pleasurable experience.

EchoHow did they describe this project to you and what specifically made you want to become involved?

Arriaga: The film is meant to raise awareness. The diverse cast talk about different forms of discrimination. Not only blatant acts, but smaller, less significant acts that have a bigger impact in the way we think. I wanted to tell my story. My parents are immigrants  who dedicated their life’s to raise strong contributing members of this country. This country was built by immigrants and minorities. We can’t forget that. I couldn’t say no to the opportunity at being one of the many reminders.

EchoHow did you determine the way in which you told your story? And were there any points of your story you wish to elaborate on here?

Arriaga: The topic of this film is very serious and very important. I wanted to be respectful to the seriousness of the topic, but my coping mechanism has always been humor. I talked about colorism in the Hispanic community, discrimination my parents went through. I also talked about my love for playing with Barbies. My cousin laughs when she talks about me stealing her Barbie dolls, but being denied playing with a toy is probably the first time I realized I was different.

Echo: Were there any specific topic/angles you set our to shed light on (bathroom bills, immigration, etc.) and was that a part of your casting conversation?

Arriaga: When I was asked to be part of this project I was told to speak my truth. The truth is I’ve been very fortunate in comparison to so many other people. That is due to me having light skin and being a cis male. In those ways I am privileged. I’ve never had issues using public bathrooms. I’m part of a generation that didn’t have to struggle with marriage equality and, luckily, I’ve never had to fear deportation laws thanks to my parents. I believe we should use our privilege responsibly to help the less privileged and stand up for those who don’t have the opportunity to.

Echo:  This has already been a poignant year in Hollywood and a historic year at the Oscars, why is the timing of this film important?

Arriaga: This past year has been a rude awakening to the severity of our countries ignorance. Although these are troubled times, something great has happened. People are opening up to subjects they never once have been a part of. People unaware of the issues minorities face are educating themselves. This film is helping a movement of young activistS to learn about these issues.

EchoIn your own words, how would you summarize the film?

Arriaga: The film is honestly revealing and eye opening.

EchoWhat kind of reactions to the film have you observed so far?

Arriaga: People want to be supportive of everything this film stands for and they’re in shock of some of the stories. I definitely think it’s spreading awareness.

EchoWhat was filming like? How long did it last and how long ago did it take place?

Arriaga: I was extremely nervous at first, telling my story never seemed like something I’d do. But the team made me feel comfortable right from the beginning. It’s been a year since my section was filmed

Echo: This film has already generated a lot of support locally (through fundraisers, Phoenix Film Festival, etc.); what were these events like? How did it feel seeing this project in its early/growing stages?

Arriaga: It’s very exciting seeing how much people care about a subject that has been historically known to be pushed under the rug. It’s time for a different type of revolution. One that encompasses everyone. It has made me very proud to be a part of a community full of awesome supporters. You can feel the love at all the events we’ve had so far.

Echo: In what ways has this film changed your life and/or the lives and thought processes of those around you?

Arriaga: I’m definitely more educated and involved in my local elections since filming. Change begins at home and the positivity ripples on from there. My family has also learned so much about the importance of voting for your local representatives.

Echo: What are your hopes for the film from here on out?

Arriaga: There are many people with different backgrounds, I hope people see how much diversity there is in our communities. The stereotypes do not define us and we are so much more than what people perceive.

Echo: What would you say to someone who was interested in seeing the film?

Arriaga: Come out and see some of the many stories told by people who might have a very similar experience as yours. I hope everyone who watches the film can leave with a positive message of love and change.

Echo: Is there anything you'd like to add about the film or your story?

Arriaga: This film was intended to raise awareness. It is a reminder of the struggles all minorities face in America. Together we are the majority so never underestimate the power of unity.

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