Entertainment

The Queens Of ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ Have Kept Latino Strong Alive In The World Of Drag For 10 Years

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Ever since the beginning of the show a decade ago (yes, it has been ten years since this groundbreaking television program made its debut on February 2009), RuPaul’s Drag Race has celebrated Latin American and Hispanic-American music, dance, aesthetics, and culture. In fact, some of the best and more daring queens have had Latino heritage

The program has a huge following the world over, and Latin America is no exception. It is not only popular within queer communities, but also among anyone who thrives on seeing others feeling empowered by being themselves, le guste a quien le guste.

Here are some key moments in which Latina queens have celebrated their heritage or non-Latino reinas preciosas have kindly paid an homage to the rich visual mosaic that is the Americas (by the way, gringos, America is a continent, the United States is a country, so don’t call it “America”, porfavorcito). Let’s not forget that RuPaul’s Drag Race is all about being spectacularly fabulous, so some of these examples are borderline pasados de lanza, but we are sure that the queens had the best of intentions. 

Bianca del Rio tots gave love to Nuyoricans.

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Bianca del Rio, who is Cuban and Honduran, is probably the most beloved queen of all time (we said “probably” before you start setting the house on fire!). Here, she is paying her respects to New York Puerto Rican culture. OK, it seems like she is mocking it but remember the show is all about fun. Serving cake like a boss! 

Bianca also did her own version of Dora la Explora!

Credit: RuPaulsDragRace / Giphy

Like it or not, Dora The Explorer was a groundbreaking TV show, as it brought Latino culture and Spanish to mainstream popular culture. Sure, it was a bit washed down, but at the time it was quite revolutionary. Our queen Bianca del Rio knows it and gives us her own Dora interpretation. 

Oops… it was a bit NSFW!

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But do you know? It actually means the verb “arrebatar” which means “to take”. 

Oops, I did it again!

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No comments. Sorry, not sorry! What else do you expect from one of the funniest and raunchiest queens to ever grace the stage of RuPaul’s Drag Race?

Adore Delano gave us her best virgencita version

Credit: Internet Movie Database

Virgin Mary is one of the most important religious figures for Latin American culture. Although some might see this as blasphemous (we can’t see why, honestly, if you keep an open mind), Adore communicated her spirituality by wearing this elaborate outfit that is literally divine.

Talking about virgencitas look at this treat that Shuga Cain served us recently. We are drooling.

Credit: @RuPaulsDragRace /Twitter

Hang this heavenly image in any wall and people will worship. Enter this outfit on the Dragulator’s hard disk now. We were devastated to see her leave the show but so grateful that we got to experience her genius.

Is it us or is Delano channeling the Colombian superstar Shakira?

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Credit: Shakira-Pies_Descalzos-Frontal. Digital image. Coveralia

OMG. She totally looks like a young Shakira, when our dear Colombian looked like a Latina version of Joan Baez meets Tori Amos. Shakira is a true icon of Latin culture worldwide, so Adore’s homage is welcome. It is full of C.U.N.T, Drag Race for Charisma, Uniqueness, Nerve and, of course, Talent.

Jinkx Monsoon is a great plañidera.

Credit: RuPauls Drag Race / VH1

plañidera is a woman who is actually hired to cry during a funeral. It is a staple of Latin cultures, not only Latin American but also Italian and Greek. Here, Jinkx Monsoon totally looks like an abuelita crying at a funeral, all pious with that black veil. Her performance is worthy of an Academy Award, truly for the gods! 

Valentina is a charrita like no other.

Credit: RuPauls Drag Race / VH1

Valentina got her Mexican up with this amazing mariachi or charro outfit. OK, it might not be that authentic (we don’t know where she got the idea that those shoulder pads are something that Pedro Infante or Jorge Negrete would wear), but el esfuerzo es lo que cuenta. Those Chicken Cutlets are on the wrong place, sweetheart!

Manila Luzon served us some Gloria Stefan realness

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This hot queen totally gave us a 1980s Miami vibe. Her attitude is totally reminiscent of Gloria Stefan and the Cuban-American scene. That swagger though! And a Body-Ody-Ody to die for.

Then she was possessed by the spirit of Carmen Miranda.

Credit: RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars /VH1
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We can’t think of a more stereotypically Latin American look than the one made famous by classic Hollywood starlet Carmen Miranda. Our chica Manila Luzon gave it a twist wearing a wrapped fruit basket! The homenaje is as funny as it is sort of classy.

In that same season, Valentina was Miss Venezuela.

Credit: RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars /VH1

Venezuela has been fertile ground for beauty queens, women who do physical features of indigenous, Black and European beauty, all mixed together. Valentina tried to do them right with this fierce look. 

A few years ago, Serena ChaCha took us all the way to a Panamanian carnival.

Credit: RuPauls Drag Race / VH1

This chiquita pero picosa lady wore those feathers in a killer look that is reminiscent of carnival cultures in the continent, from Panama to Brazil. We can almost smell the salty sea breeze and feel the balmy sweat on our faces looking at this pocket rocket. BAM! BAM! BAM!

Mercedes Iman gave us a dose of Old Havana charm.

Credit: @RuPaulsDragRace / Twitter

Imagine the setting: an outdoor bar in La Habana Vieja, with couples lasciviously dancing to the rhythm of the ocean tides, the smell of cigars lingering in the air, the taste of rum, sugar and mint (mojitos!) in your mouth, and a delicious son cubano (Simoneeeeey) setting the mood… Mercedes Iman (from the latest season of RuPaul’s Drag Race) walks in, stunning in her sexy yet elegant dress. She would fit right in, like a knife on butter. Fierce! Fierce! Fierce!

She could very well be accompanied by this stunning lady.

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Can they get their sh*t together and launch a double act already? We would pay to see them. Perhaps they could do an awesome Celia Cruz and Omara Portuondo lip sync battle! Take our money and run, ladies. 

Mariah Balenciaga got all J.Lo on us during DragCon.

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The hairdo, the dress that goes up to the point where it ceases to be decent and the attitude… it all screams Jenny from the block. We love this homage to one of our Latino icons. Jennifer Lopez is powerful, a true boricua warrior, and Mariah Balenciaga certainly channeled that. She looks so hot she flooded our basements! (yes, that is a thing… if you disagree please click here and get your RuPaul lingo together, ignorante de la vida). 

OK, you tried… Happy Cinco de Mayo, we guess!

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Season 11 queen Brooke Lynn Hytes (Brooklyn Heights, get it?) uploaded this picture of her man celebrating Cinco de Mayo. Cultural appropriation much? That’s OK, this date is all about celebrating all things Hispanic anyway, so we will give her a pass.

READ: 27 Moments When Latina Queens Ruled In RuPaul’s Drag Race

Two Trans Latinas In New York Are Starting A Beauty Co-Op To Help Trans Women Build Their Businesses

Entertainment

Two Trans Latinas In New York Are Starting A Beauty Co-Op To Help Trans Women Build Their Businesses

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Four years ago, Lesly Herrera Castillo and Joselyn Mendoza both had a vision to create a worker-owned makeup and hair salon for the trans Latino community in Jackson Heights, New York. It was ambitious and for them, it was necessary. For years, the duo faced racial and gender discrimination from employers. Their own community, Jackson Heights, was also becoming a problem as the area became the site of multiple anti-trans hate crimes in recent years. So they came together with a plan to open Mirror Beauty Cooperative in 2015.

The beauty shop would create numerous jobs for the local trans community but more importantly assist undocumented individuals who were denied opportunities due to their legal status. So Castillo and Mendoza made the important decision to register the business as a cooperative cooperation (co-op). This was done so the salon would basically be “worker-run” and there would be no need for things like social security numbers, an obstacle many undocumented workers face when applying to jobs. Instead, the salon will use individual taxpayer identification numbers (ITINs).

“The significance of the cooperative for me is that it’s an opportunity to create more jobs and make a space that’s free of discrimination,” Mendoza told the HuffPost. “As trans women, we don’t often have access to a healthy economy, and this allows us to change that and obtain other services like health care.”

While their idea started four years ago, the duo hasn’t yet obtained a physical space to open up the salon. But they hope with enough support this vision can become a reality. 

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While both Castillo and Mendoza haven’t opened up a physical salon space, they are both continuing to work in other salons as they continue to save and plan for the Mirror Beauty Cooperative. This past May they began to reach out to more people to help fund their goal through a GoFundMe Campaign. The results of the campaign fund have been less than 1 percent of their $150,000 goal. The duo has also faced other socioeconomic setbacks like lack of traditional education and the economic instability due to their immigrant background. 

“Latina trans women always have multiple obstacles in the way,” Mendoza said. “I think if a collective of white trans women were to start a project like this, their incubation process would be faster than ours because of their historical access to privilege.” 

But Herrera notes that the white trans community is still an ally to them even though they are on different economic levels. “We can always depend on the white trans community” to offer support “because they know they’re on a better [economic] level.”

For the trans, gender-queer and nonbinary community, job discrimination has been a reoccurring issue. According to the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey, 16 percent of gender-queer and nonbinary respondents who had held jobs reported having been fired for their gender identity or expression. But for trans women and trans people of color, they were the most likely to have gone through this. 

While the salon is still in progress, Castillo and Mendoza have become a presence in their own neighborhood uplifting and bringing attention to the trans Latino community. 

As of now, the duo has a secret backup plan in case they don’t meet their fundraising goals by the end of the year. They hope that the campaign does one thing though, create and share their broader call for building community with people. 

That has already started to take place as Castillo, Hernandez and their new partner, Jonahi Rosa have all become presences in Jackson Heights advocating for the trans community. The trio even participated in the Queens Pride Parade as co-grand marshals. This has also included various charity events for local LGTBQ+ youth. 

They all feel that the salon has the potential to bring people together and spread awareness about issues that affect their lives every day. From the start, the trio has always wanted to not only create a space for the trans community but give them an opportunity. 

“We want to work, [and] we want to give agency to our community,” Rosa said. “It’s a perfect opportunity for our community to come together and make something for our future.”

READ: Our FIERCE Readers Share Some of the Most Outrageous Lies They’ve Told To Get Some Time Away With Their Boo

After Almost Two Years, Trans Activist Alejandra Barrera Has Been Released From ICE Custody

Things That Matter

After Almost Two Years, Trans Activist Alejandra Barrera Has Been Released From ICE Custody

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After nearly two years in detention, Alejandra Barrera, a 44-year-old transgender Salvadorian activist, was released from an ICE facility in New Mexico late last Friday. Human rights activists and the transgender immigrant community are rejoicing at the news that Barrera will finally be freed after being held in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention since November 2017.

Barrera, who hails from El Salvador, fled her country due to discrimination and persecution. Shortly after seeking asylum in the U.S, she was detained at the Cibola County Correctional Center in New Mexico, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s detention center with a unit specifically for transgender women that opened in 2017, according to the Phoenix New Times. During her time at the detention facility, there were numerous complaints of abuse and maltreatment of inmates that included the death of Roxsana Hernandez Rodriguez, a transgender woman who died of HIV-related complications last year. 

 Before leaving El Salvador, Barrera was a well-known activist in her home country where she stood up for transgender rights for over a decade. But with this attention also came attacks from local gangs and the Salvadoran military who targeted her and forced her to eventually leave in and claim asylum in November 2017. In spite of all of this, Barrera was repeatedly denied asylum in the U.S.

Many people and organizations helped build awareness around the release of Barrera. But it was the hashtag #FreeAlejandra that made the world know her story. 

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Barrera’s release is the culmination of a year-long campaign by multiple nonprofit organizations like the Amnesty International, the Translatin@ Coalition and the National Immigrant Justice Center. This also included the help of federal lawmakers like Democratic Reps. Ilhan Omar (Minn.), Adam Schiff (Calif.), and Jerrold Nadler (N.Y.) 

Many first heard the story of Barrera with the hashtag #FreeAlejandra that circulated online for months spreading awareness of her detention. A Change.org petition demanding her freedom received more than 36,000 signatures and raised awareness of Barerra’s case using the hashtag #FreeAlejandra.

“Through letters of support, people from around the world gave me the strength to continue in this struggle that was so hard for me. I’m here to keep fighting”  Barrera said in response to everyone that helped share her story. 

Bamby Salcedo, the executive director of Translatin@ Coalition, acknowledged all the work put forth to have Barrera finally released. She said in a video posted to Facebook the day of  Barrera’s release that her “heart is so full of joy” now that Barrera is finally out.

“It was because of all of your calls, because of all of you signing petitions, showing up to the rallies, showing up the press conferences, her lawyers – everyone – all of you who wrote letters to Alejandra, everyone who participated in la campaigna de #FreeAlejandra – should be very proud because this is one more victory and we should be able to celebrate,” Salcedo said in the video. 

Barrera is currently released on parole while she waits for her asylum case to go to immigration court.

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While Barrera is out and getting to enjoy her freedom, her fight for asylum is not over just yet. As of now, Barrera’s asylum status is still not secure and must now continue to fight against her deportation. If she is not granted asylum, Barrera faces the daunting possibility of being deported back to El Salvador. 

Denise Bell, Amnesty International’s researcher for refugee and migrant rights, told the Daily News that while her organization is happy that Barrera is out of ICE detention, the fight is not over yet. Bell says that she hopes that Barrera’s case becomes an example of what happens when people come together to bring awareness to a good cause. 

“We don’t think that she should be returned to El Salvador, where we are gravely concerned for her well-being,” Bell told the Daily News. “Trans people in detention are at a special risk of abuse because of their special medical needs, often, and [because of] their gender identity. So we just want to draw attention to the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of other trans people who are seeking asylum, who are in immigration detention [and] who should be released on parole

Barrera is currently being represented by Rebekah Wolf of the Equal Justice Coalition, who fought and brought awareness for her release. While she seeks refuge, Barrera will stay with a sponsor from the TransLatin@ Coalition. 

According to the Washington Blade, ICE estimates that at least 111 transgender people who are being held in U.S. detention centers. The number is an increase that what ICE estimated just five months prior and it does not include detainees that might have been uncounted. 

READ: Mexico Has Become The World’s Second-Deadliest Country For Transgender People To Live And Many Are Worried