Some friends of friends knew this guy, and that's how we ended up becoming friends with Paul Pena and Babe. He was an awesome musician and performer, he could light up a room anytime he wanted, and without exaggeration I can say that he was a beautiful human being, just a real cool guy with a good spirit.
We used to go over to his apartment to smoke dope, hang out, listen to tapes. Over the years I've thought of him from time to time; I could never figure out why he hadn't become famous. Now I'm a 49-year-old computer programmer living in the Bay Area burbs, and this afternoon I pick up your paper and there's the cover, and it all comes back, what it was like to be 19 and living for the moment. Thirty years, it goes by just like that.
Is Nestor Going Soft?
I was pleased to see that "Nestor Makhno" has moved on to a more useful exercise in his efforts to resist gentrification in the Mission ("Disaster Corts the Mission," Postscript, April 21).
It's a big step in the right direction. Vandalizing the SUVs of a few frat daddies under the guise of a political movement always seemed about as constructive as shooting up your high school with shotguns because you don't like jocks.
His article, however, attacked an appropriate target: a multiproperty landlord with the power to provide affordable housing or to evict the powerless and remove housing from the market. There may still be no satisfactory remedy in the case of the Corts, but at the very least the article raises awareness about a widespread problem -- and does so without resorting to sticks and stones.
Touched by Engardio
Joel P. Engardio's feature "You Can't Be Gay -- You're Latino!" (April 14) touched me deeply by removing me from my comfort zone and enabling me to develop a glimmer of an understanding about another section of the gay community, the Latino/Latina gay men and lesbians.
Thank you, Joel, for teaching me about their vantage point. By learning about them, I look inside to learn about me, too. Thanks for the journey.
John R. Selig
I was born and raised a white boy. Episcopalian with a crew cut and that. Then I moved to Latin America and lived there for three years at a stretch. That white-boy Episcopal stuff all unraveled. I spent more than half my day speaking Spanish, and now I mostly pray with Mexicans.
Nearly all of my lovers have been Latinos, and each of these men have been marvelous souls, and each of us was richer for having crossed the divide between cultures ("You Can't Be Gay -- You're Latino!").
To those Latinos who would denigrate cross-cultural relationships such as I have enjoyed, I would remind them how enriched my life has been by having had a window on, and a foot in, Latino culture.
The extraordinary story on gay Latinos was very enlightening to me in understanding the Mexican psyche. And therein lies the rest of the story.
There is more to Latin America than Mexico. My experience was in Central America. Each of these tiny republics is quite distinct, and while gay life in Nicaragua was reported to me to be quite dreadful, gays seemed more accepted and integrated in Costa Rican society than in most parts of the United States.
The Costa Ricans are healthy, well educated, and peace loving; a nation without an army and proud of it! I encountered a small but thriving gay community, both socially and intellectually. Costa Ricans put great emphasis on being educados (or best expressed as "well mannered and considerate") and this trait is valued above all in anyone there, and generally I got the feeling that a person's sexual orientation didn't enter into the equation for most people. I feel we have a lot to learn from these people, if my experience is any indication.
Finally, I would commend any of your readers finding themselves in the Monterey Bay Area on a weekend night to find their way to Castroville, the Artichoke Center of the World, and home to Norma Jean's. Directly across the street from the mariachi bar in this town of 3,000 people, surrounded by fields, sits Norma Jean's, a gay bar blazing cumbias, salsa, and disco until the wee hours to packed crowds. Likely to be an interesting field trip.
White Boys, White Boys, Whatcha Gonna Do?
I'm sorry but I do not agree with Joel Engardio's story ("You Can't Be Gay -- You're Latino!"). I'm a Latino born in the border town of El Paso. I for sure do not separate myself from the gay community just because I'm Latino. I do not see the so-called white Castro. The Castro is just as diverse in cultures as any other neighborhood.
I am proud to be Mexican myself, with both of my parents from Mexico. It's not who you are, it's who you represent as an individual. You mold your life with no regrets, and you have to be willing to accept all prejudices.
Miguel, don't worry. You're seeing yourself too much as a piece of meat. And so what if white boys find you attractive? Maybe you're hanging around with the wrong people who give you their ideas.
Cut the Crap
Regarding Joel P. Engardio's piece "You Can't Be Gay -- You're Latino!," thank you for writing this article. Let us hope this subject sheds light on the useless crap (from both Latino and non-Latino alike) a good number of gay Latinos like myself face. Thanks again!