Rosa Lopez is honored at the intersection of Vecinos Blvd and Winnetka Ave. Photo courtesy of Juan Contreras via Jesus Chairez


Dallas’ gay Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Omar Narvaez, who represents District 6 on the city council, unveiled ceremonial street sign toppers May 31, honoring Rosa Lopez.

Dallas’ gay Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Omar Narvaez, who represents District 6 on the city council, unveiled ceremonial street sign toppers May 31, honoring Rosa Lopez, the lesbian Latina community activist who lost her battle with Hodgkin’s lymphoma Feb. 21, 2017.

Narvaez initiated the process of honoring Lopez with the street sign toppers in her West Dallas neighborhood of Los Altos, then the community stepped up to help, said Mary Velez, board president, of Vecinos Unidos, a nonprofit Lopez established to bring affordable housing to Dallas’s lower income West Dallas neighborhoods. It was, Velez said, really a big effort by the entire community to get the sign toppers approved, with many neighbors signing petitions, writing letters, and speaking at city council meetings.

Narvaez called Lopez a pillar of the Los Alto neighborhood in West Dallas who brought much needed affordable housing to a community when no one else was even considering such an effort. The West Dallas that Lopez fought for was a low-income Mexican, Mexican American and Black neighborhood with a lead smelter plant and two concrete batch plants. The lead smelter plant allegedly poisoned many children with excessive lead levels over the years. Now it and the concrete plants are gone thanks to the community activists who banded together to demand they be closed.

While Lopez dedicated herself to the affordable housing cause, and that work took up much of her time. But she also found time to open an ice cream shop called Suenos Sabrosos (Sweet Dreams) in the Bishop Arts District neighborhood where she lived. After spending her day at Vecinos Unidos, Lopez would head to her ice cream shop where she spent the evenings and weekends doing what she always dreamed of as a child — owning her own ice cream shop. People visited Sueños Sabrosas to not only enjoy some ice cream but stay awhile to talk about politics. And if a visitor came in feeling down, Lopez was there to offer comfort and words of advice.

Rosa Lopez was a trailblazer in the LGBTQ+ community. Photo: Dallas Voice

Juan C. Conteras, a young gay Latino activist and a co-founding member of Texas Latino Pride, attended the March 31 ceremony. In a social media post afterward, he recalled how, as a young teenager, he frequently visited Lopez at her ice cream parlor where they would engage in lively conversations and how Lopez helped him through his coming out process. Contreras also recalled how he would exchange tacos from his family’s restaurant around the corner from the ice cream shop for some delicious ice cream.

Contreras said it was an extraordinary privilege to witness the unveiling of the street sign topper honoring Lopez, a trailblazing woman who shattered many glass ceilings. Her presence is greatly missed, he added, but her memory lives on in the hearts of those she touched.

Lopez also established Dallas’ first organization for Latina lesbian: Lesbianas Latinas de Dallas. Nov. 9 1996, Lopez and the rest of Lesbianas Latinas de Dallas became Dallas’ first LGBTQ Latino group to hold a major community dance at a prominent Dallas hotel when they hosted “La Noche de Gala — Formal Dance” at the Harvey Hotel.

Lesbianas Latinas de Dallas had an open door to Dallas’s gay bilingual Latino radio show, “Sin Fronteras that aired Sunday evenings on community radio station KNON 89.3 FM for many years. Lopez was a frequent guest on radio show, discussing issues and concerns facing Latina lesbians. With the Lesbianas Latinas de Dallas, she often worked with the producer of the radio show and owner of Arte Facto, a gay Latino alternative art space in Old East Dallas, to have cultural events of poetry readings and Latina lesbian folk singers, like prominent Puerto Rican folk singer Lourdes Perez.

The Lesbianas Latinas disbanded after a couple of years, but Lopez continued volunteering her time in community endeavors.

In her final years, Lopez became a member of a new LGBTQ+ Latino group called LULAC 4871 — The Dallas Rainbow Council. The group that helped promote LULAC’s overall national and statewide missions, but with emphasis on the LGBTQ+ Latino community.

Gay Latino activist Juan Contreras holds a ceremonial street sign honoring Rosa Lopez. Photo courtesy of Juan Contreras via Jesus Chairez

Lopez also participated frequently in LGBTQ+ Latino(a) history seminars because she believed strongly in preserving LGBTQ+ Latino(a) history. LULAC 4871 — The Dallas Rainbow Council created a scholarship in Lopez’s honor to help students further their education. After she passed, her hometown community in Moline, Illinois, also endowed a scholarship in her honor.

According to Narvaez, this is the first time the city of Dallas has honored a female, Latina and LGBTQ+ woman with honorary street sign toppers.

West Dallas, the Dallas LGBTQ+ community and the city overall lost a one-of-a-kind leader with Rosa Lopez’s death. But her memory lives on for all to see and cherish every day through the street signs toppers in West Dallas.

Jesús Chaírez is a contributing writer for Dallas Voice.

This story is made possible with support from Comcast Corporation.