And that time was better. It was much better. There was more of everything. Especially for Latinos. For gay Latinos, 16th Street was filled with clubs. There were like three clubs to do shows. Now there is only one, which is Esta Noche. They pay you better but the shows used to be better back then. There was more talent. More wardrobes. More glamour. There was a group called Las Yolandas that was all Cuban and I worked in that group. We did a show similar to the Tropicana in Cuba, like cabaret. Let's say like Vegas with feathers and the whole thing. We had an opening and a closing performance. Now, that doesn't exist much. The group lasted like three years. Then the girls started dying and the group disintegrated.


I retired for a while from that world: fell into drugs, fell into prostitution. Afterwards I met a guy, the one who cut my face. His parents own businesses here, clothing factories. He took me out of that world and got me an apartment, then a house, and I lived with him for seven years. But I didn't feel that was my life. I wasn't feeling at ease because my passion was the stage! The show! But because he paid everything, I was obliged to do all he wanted. One day we had a huge argument about this and I ran up to him and punched his face and that's when he cut my face.

Mi vida, I left him and entered the show scene again. The world of shows means prostitution and drugs. Even if people deny it, I see it that way, you understand? Because whenever you are performing there'd be drugs and the clients would be in the bar and are going to offer money. Anyway I got into drugs and prostitution again. I am very open. I tell my life as it is. That's when my life with drugs and drugs and drugs started. I lost my home, I lost everything.


I was living in the streets for a while. Then I was locked up. Immigration got me because my documents had expired. Eight months I spent in an immigration prison. From there immigration sent me to Chico, into a huge house. It was like a rancho. I lived five years in a house where they fixed all my papers, my disability. From there I came back to San Francisco and again fell and fell hard. Again I started doing drugs. That was seven years ago. I got locked up again. I was enrolled in a program. I'd flee those programs. Until one day I decided to leave with a girlfriend of mine to Daly City and we rented a house in front of the cemetery. I fixed all my disability papers. I came back to live in a shelter for eight months. The shelter got me this apartment and I've been here for four years.

I've always loved the artistic lifestyle. All that world of makeup, wigs, dresses just fascinates me. And I've stayed in San Francisco because here there is more help for us girls. I think also less discrimination. More programs for transgender girls, more groups, more help, more of everything. Although I think it was easier to transition back then, in the sense that Medicare would cover your hormones. Now it's harder. I get my hormones covered but not all girls do. In the '80s Medicare would cover all of it, minus the operation down there.


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Adela Vazquez
Camagüey, Cuba
Year of Arrival: 1983

On my 13th birthday I told my grandmother to give me money to go to the movies. Of course, I didn't go to the movies. I went walking downtown, finding out where all the locas hung out in Camagüey. Around the Casino Campestre, a park with plenty of fountains, I had seen a few locas, a few faggots. There I met people that I know to this day: La Yoya, la Mayami, and some other weird locas. Those were my first contacts with Cuban faggotry.

The Casino Campestre had a fountain in the shape of a swan that spat water out of the beak and there all the locas would get baptized. An older loca would baptize you. She'd wet your hair and forehead with water, pulling your head back and praying, "With this water we are turning you into a faggot!" and I was baptized as La Chica Terremoto. I had my godfather, a bugarrón named Candelita and my godmother, another loca. We were so young! Fourteen, 15 years old, we'd sit at that park and model all the clothing we had. "And now comes Fulana with that stunning dress!" In our heads it was wonderful.


March 1980, the problem with the Peruvian embassy was happening in La Habana, right? There were rumors that people were already leaving to the U.S., to Miami. Wasting no time, some locas and I went to La Habana, directly to a government office, where we were told to return to Camagüey because each city was going to open its own immigration office. Camagüey is nine hours away in guagua from La Habana. We went back and that same night I got ready, I went out into the streets and recruited faggots, niña! Tomorrow they are opening the office to go to Miami! I was one of the first people to show up the next morning. When the office opened, the workers couldn't believe all those locas.

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2 comments
promoxs
promoxs

These stories are inspirational and touching. Natural born citizens take so much for granted. The struggle to be more than the sum of your bits and pieces is one that every person can identify with. I hope to read more articles like this one in SF Weekly!

Faithful reader,

John Gunderson

 
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