Advertisement
Share

Latinx Files: How L.A.’s Latinx LGBTQ community hopes to save the New Jalisco Bar

A person walks by the New Jalisco bar
After being closed for nearly a year, the New Jalisco is on the brink of disappearing.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

Among the things endangered by the COVID-19 pandemic has been the New Jalisco Bar in downtown Los Angeles. As my colleague Andrea Castillo notes in her Column One story from Monday, the New Jalisco Bar is more than just a watering hole. It has been a lifeline for the city’s Latinx LGBTQ community since the early 2000s. After nearly a year of being closed, New Jalisco is on the brink of disappearing.

New Jalisco wasn’t always an LGBTQ space. When Maria Rosa Garcia, the current owner, first started working there in 1992, it was a billiards bar called the Jalisco Inn. By the time the Score, the only gay bar in downtown L.A., closed in 2005, Garcia had assumed ownership of the Jalisco Inn, and under the insistence of her husband Sergio Hernandez, she decided to fill that void.

“We have to recognize that this is a gay bar,” Hernandez said.

Since then, New Jalisco bar has been a refuge for the Latinx LGBTQ community, a “jotería space,” as Eddy Francisco Alvarez Jr., an assistant professor of Chicana and Chicano studies at Cal State Fullerton, puts it.

Advertisement

“We can show up and be Latino, Chicano, immigrant, Afro-Latino, femme and trans — all of those intersecting identities,” he said, “and just be who we want to be. And be messy.”

“Jalisco to me feels like going to, like, a family quinceañera,” Gabriela Ruiz, 29, a queer performance artist, told Castillo.

“Everyone there is like your gay uncle.”

But then the pandemic hit. At first, Garcia and Hernandez thought the shutdown gave them a chance to renovate the space. The couple invested their savings in upgrading the plumbing and creating a dressing room for drag performers. That optimism has turned to worry. Though the bar has remained closed, bills have been piling up. They owe $55,000 on back rent alone.

Without their livelihood, Garcia and Hernandez have had to make do elsewhere. Garcia started selling tacos in front of her home in South L.A. while Hernandez has been working for a moving company. Because of their legal status, they couldn’t apply for a Paycheck Protection Program loan that would help with keeping New Jalisco afloat.

All is not lost, however. In December, Ruiz helped Garcia set up a GoFundMe campaign to help raise $80,000 to cover expenses. When The Times published Castillo’s story on Monday, the effort had raised more than half the money. As of this writing, the campaign has surpassed $70,000.

“Gay bars have survived political oppression, the AIDS crisis, previous recessions, so they will survive this pandemic,” noted Greggor Mattson, a sociology professor at Oberlin College in Ohio.

If you’d like to help the New Jalisco, you can contribute to the campaign here.

Consider subscribing to the Los Angeles Times

Your support helps us deliver the news that matters most. Become a subscriber.

Remembering loved ones lost to COVID-19: Luis Alvarez Serrano on his “suegro de oro,” Aristeo Mandujano

Last week’s edition of the Latinx Files was dedicated to readers sharing memories of family members who have died because of COVID-19. As I noted, I’ll be including these in the newsletter whenever I get them in my inbox. If you would like some space to grieve or share your own story, you can email me at latinxfiles@latimes.com.

Aristeo Mandujano sits in a chair and laughs as he's 'photographed.
Reader Luis Alvarez Serrano remembers his “suegro de oro,” Aristeo Mandujano.
(Courtesy of Luis Alvarez Serrano)

We lost Don Aristeo on Aug. 30, 2020, due to COVID-19, just three days before what would’ve been his 59th birthday. He was born in Ciudad Mante, Tamaulipas, Mexico.

Since he was a child, he had had a difficult life. He was basically on his own during his formative years. Never one to sit still, he had many odd jobs when he was young, trying to earn whatever he could to help his family.

It was a bit awkward when I first met him. I even thought for a while that he didn’t like me. But as the years went by I realized that wasn’t the case.

Don Aristeo had many ailments, but when something would go wrong or someone needed help, he was always the one who would be front and center to lend a hand. No matter what it was, he always tried to help.

He taught me many things like cooking out, minor mechanic stuff, plumbing and even fishing.

When I would visit him, he’d always ask about my job, my parents, my nieces and nephew. I’ll never forget his stories about his many jobs and his younger days. He was like my second dad. It might sound cliche, but he really was.

He was a great husband, dad and grandfather.

He absolutely loved his grandkids. He used to say, “Estoy bien enamorado de mis nietos.”

He was the kindest soul I or anyone would ever meet.

He got sick in late July. He fought it as much as he could at home. When he started feeling worse, he drove himself to the hospital. He spent almost a month in the hospital. My wife would call him every day to check on him. Two weeks in, she had called and the nurses had told him he was doing as well as he could, given the virus.

That same night, my wife got a call that still breaks my heart to this day. They had intubated my father-in-law. My wife saying “Oh no!” as her voice broke was crushing. We prayed for several days, asking God to heal him and make him anew. God decided to give him his wings, though.

It’s very painful that he’s no longer with us, but we take solace in that he’s in heaven healed and no longer suffering.

Siempre lo extrañaremos, mi suegro de oro.

Freeze in the heart of Texas

“You may all go to hell, and I will go to Texas,” frontiersman Davy Crockett famously declared before he left Tennessee and headed southwest to die at the Alamo.

For millions of residents of the Lone Star State, the last week has certainly felt like hell, albeit a frozen one. That’s because an unprecedented winter storm not only brought freezing temperatures to much of Texas but also knocked out much of the state’s electrical grid, leaving more than 4 million homes without power for extended periods. My parents, for example, lost electricity on Monday at 2 a.m. and finally got it back Wednesday afternoon.

Despite a power outage that lasted more than 50 hours, my family is one of the lucky ones. The power at my sister’s house stayed on, giving our family a place to stay warm.

South of us, thousands of migrants seeking asylum and camped in the Mexican border city of Matamoros weren’t as fortunate. My folks also live in the Rio Grande Valley, one of the few regions in Texas that weren’t pummeled by snow. Over the last few days, I’ve been texting with friends, checking in on them.

“My family has found itself going to our cars to warm up and charge our phones,” a friend of mine who lives in San Antonio, which saw several inches of snowfall earlier this week, texted back, asking to remain anonymous. “I see people scouring empty meat and bread sections for food [at the grocery store]. Am I in Venezuela? I’m convinced I live in a third-world country.”

I relayed this to my sister’s mother-in-law, who escaped the Maduro regime. She didn’t disagree entirely, though she pointed out that at least when the power went out in Venezuela it wasn’t freezing cold.

“Across the street on my block lives an elderly Hispanic 91-year-old lady and at the end of the street there’s an assisted living center for the elderly — their power has been off, too,” my friend added. “How morally bankrupt has the state of Texas become?”

That anger feels justified. Millions of Texans are still without power, and as if that weren’t bad enough, many have lost potable water.

“This was poorly managed,” one Texan told the Texas Tribune. “It was clarifying, to be honest with you, because now we know when things hit the fan. We’re in it alone.”

The truly frightening thing is that this will likely happen again.

“Extreme weather events are becoming more frequent and more severe as the climate crisis worsens,” my colleague Sammy Roth explains. “And the U.S. power grid is not prepared to handle the hotter heat storms, more frigid cold snaps and stronger hurricanes of a changing planet.”

Read and sign up for his Boiling Point newsletter for a closer look at what’s behind the blackouts.

Adiós al ‘Padrino’

Johnny Pacheco, the “Godfather of Salsa,” died Monday in Teaneck, N.J., from complications of pneumonia. He was 85.

Born in Santiago de los Caballeros, Dominican Republic, Pacheco played an instrumental role in popularizing salsa music in the United States. He was also the co-founder of Fania Records, known as “the Motown of Salsa,” and was responsible for putting together the Fania All-Stars, a supergroup of musicians that included Celia Cruz and Tito Puente.

One of my favorite pieces of trivia about Pacheco and the Fania All-Stars is that they were among the musical acts that performed at Zaire 74, the three-day music festival organized as a promotional event to the famed “Rumble in the Jungle” heavyweight fight between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman. The boxing match had to be postponed by six weeks because Foreman got injured, but the show still went on.

You can watch Celia Cruz and Pacheco do a soundcheck before their set in the tweet embedded below.

The best thing on the Latinternet: Ladies and gentlemen, el fin de semana

It’s been a tough week, so I’d like to end this newsletter on a lighter note by sharing this hilarious Duranguense version of The Weeknd’s “Blinding Lights” made by Los Skorpions. A special shoutout to former Times intern Tomás Mier, who blessed our timeline with the video. You can listen and watch the full version here.


Advertisement