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Cuentamelo: An Oral History of Queer Latin Immigrants in San Francisco 

Wednesday, Jun 26 2013

Page 6 of 8

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.

My mami gave me 400 pesos that I had to throw out of the guagua's window because they told us we couldn't take any money; we couldn't take anything with us. We were taken to a place called Cuatro Ruedas where they gave us safe passage, saying that we were all at the embassy in Peru, which was a total lie. From there we went to El Mosquito. El Mosquito was a port near Mariel improvised to prepare us for departure. I cannot even explain to you how horrible El Mosquito was. It was a beach packed with people, criminals. Eight days I spent there. Imagine! I was there without showering, shaving, or eating. I remember this like a delirium. People stealing. Horrible. This was my first contact with the world, unprotected by my family or anything. I was in Cuba but I wasn't really in Cuba. I was with six other locas, we came together all the way to the U.S. Rumors circulated of what could happen once you were at sea, like you'd get thrown to the sharks, or that you were going into a concentration camp to work for the rest of your life. You really didn't know where they were taking you.

In the ship I passed out. A woman gave birth in that boat. We weren't given food. After eight hours, I hear the coast guards shouting in English.

And, oh Dios, it's Key West.

Women from Miami reeking of Uncle Charlie's perfume greeted us, screaming, "You're in America, don't be afraid!" They'd give you a rosary, cigarettes, and Coca-Cola. Then you'd enter an immense structure with tables and tables stacked with food. Hot food, Cuban food. I was exhausted and just passed out for a minute when my girlfriends woke me: "We are going to Miami on the next plane!"

But, not Miami. We arrived at Fort Smith, Ark. I was hysterical! And a little scared because from the airplane's door to the guagua were federal police lined with machine guns. The guagua took us to Fort Chaffee. Fort Chaffee was built to train the military during World War I. Immense, with churches, hospitals and everything! Laundry room. Cafeteria. There you swore your allegiance to the flag. The Red Cross gave us little hygiene packets: man or woman? "Give me one of each!" I said.

I spend a wonderful month and a half there: I got married several times, cruising and fucking a lot. That's where I fucked that kid with the tattoo, "vaja y gosa mi savor" ["drop down and enjoy my flavor"] all misspelled and with an arrow pointing to his dick. His dick this big.

My friend Lucy got us out of that place. The Catholic Church would give you $100 and a plane ticket wherever you were going. We learned Cubans were getting sponsored at the L.A Gay Community Center, and there we were met with our godmother and fierce faggot queen, Rolando Victoria, may he rest in peace. A wonderful, funny alcoholic who took us under her wing. I lived with him from July 1980 until March 1982. He got me a job at Neiman Marcus wrapping gifts.

Oct. 23, 1983, I got to San Francisco with my friend Catherine a few days before Halloween. It was the first time I lived in the ghetto, the Tenderloin. Right on Eddy and Taylor. I was dating Alicia. A bunch of Cubans and Alicia lived in that apartment. We slept on a mattress made of pillows, lying in the kitchen along with mice. This was the first time I went to The Endup; I walked on Sixth Street. I was fascinated by San Francisco. Then I got a job at a hotel where everyone was from the Philippines and we had some communication problems with our accents, ha!

About The Author

Juliana Delgado


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