A Harvard-Bound Freshman’s Journey to Advocacy

While taking time off before college to reconcile his Latino and queer identities, Javier Cifuentes took an unexpected turn into activism

May 05, 2017

When Javier Cifuentes came out to his mother, she told him the real reason she had brought him to the United States from Guatemala as an undocumented 6-year-old was that she recognized he might be gay. Like many immigrants, she feared for his well-being in her home country. Taking a gap year to process his newly realized identity, Javier did not expect Donald J. Trump to be elected president. He felt as if he could not remain silent.

Julia Schmalz is a senior multimedia producer. She tells stories with photos, audio, and video. Follow her on Twitter @jschmalz09, or email her at