In this episode of jotxs y recuerdos, Alexandra interviews Esteban Silva, a queer brujo who learned protection spells from his Buela and had to hide who he was growing up. Read an excerpt of the episode below or tune in!
Alexandra: Hey everyone, you’re listening to jotxs y recuerdos. This is Alexandra, and I am interviewing my very best friend, Esteban, who currently lives in Las Vegas. He is on the line with me now.
So, Esteban, I know that I can talk about you and with you for hours, but I want you to talk about you. Tell me a little bit about yourself Tell me how you identify in terms of sexuality, pronouns and what part of the Valley you grew up in?
Esteban: Okay, my name is Esteban. I grew up in Pharr, Texas. I guess I would identify as queer. Rather just as Esteban, but I am a queer man. I grew up between McAllen and Texas. I went to Liberty Middle School and then went to Raiders PJSA North Early College High School. Graduated from both. Oh, and got my bachelor’s degree at Oklahoma City University.
Alexandra: Okay. What did you study in Oklahoma?
Esteban: I have a Bachelor’s in Fine Arts with a minor in gothic literature.
Alexandra: Okay so what was your experience like growing up as a queer, Mexican kid in the Rio Grande Valley?
Esteban: The sad truth is I was not a queer kid in the Rio Grande Valley. I never got to be a queer kid in the Rio Grande Valley. I guess when I came back to college I was able to do that.I mean, the truth is, I had to hide who I was growing up and for a long time. It was a nightmare that I was trying to not wake up and feel like it wasn’t a fucking nightmare again. I had friends, I had amazing people who loved me and supported Esteban, but didn’t know who I really was. Even my god, even my religion played a big part in keeping me the way I was.
The first time I ever felt queer, the first time I ever felt wrong — and I don’t mean in the literal sense like I was in a stake in — but that I felt like something was wrong about me was when I was 7 years old. I mean, my mom was driving. We were on our way to go somewhere —I don’t remember for what or for who— but I was in the back seat, and my mom looks over and asks me (if) I think a woman should be able to marry a woman and a man should be able to marry a man. And I said, “well if they love each other, it shouldn’t matter.” And my mom explained to me, “well that’s not what the bible says, you know, your father—it’s always been a father and a mother. It’s always been a husband and a wife.”
And I explained to her: “well what if dad was a woman, would you not marry him?” And she said no. And you know, it didn’t seem like anything. It didn’t seem like a memory I could’ve kept, but that was the first moment that I felt wrong, that I felt queer. And that moment identified me for the next 10 years, if not more.
I can say that I had teachers who knew, growing (up) in the education system. Maybe (they) didn’t know but, (they) just sympathized. And they kept me going. A lot of it was a smile here, a pat on the head, a random hug in random spots. Passing the hallway and having a teacher just give me a hug made things beautiful and worth living.
I mean, Nicky, you knew. I mean maybe you didn’t know, but there weren’t that many gay people in our high school at all. And if they were gay they were, you know, identified as something other than queer, transgender, as something else. That’s okay, that’s what they wanted to be, but there wasn’t any in-between, there wasn’t any kind of organization.
Alexandra: At Raiders, there was definitely more openly gay women then there were men, right?
Esteban: Yes. Yeah, definitely.
Alexandra: Do you think that it’s harder for gay men to come out within the Mexican community versus women?
Esteban: I couldn’t say for sure. I would say that it’s hard on both sides. I just know that it seemed easier for them. It seemed a lot easier for them to accept who they were then it did for me, and I don’t know if that was me being a coward. I don’t know if that was me just holding on to something that just wasn’t real. But it seemed way easier for them to accept themselves, and it took me years before I even was able to mention that I was gay or queer.
Alexandra: Everyone has their own journey, right? But for me, personally, just from what I’ve seen and experienced, it seems like for gay or queer Mexican men it’s harder because of this whole machista, toxic masculinity within the community—specifically something that still exists in the valley, you know? That’s why I just think it’s so interesting that there were more openly gay women at Raiders versus men when we were there. But also a lot of people did come out later in the game so I had the same experience as you.
Esteban: They did, they really did. We were back for a few shows and everyone was pretty accepting, everyone was pretty up and lively, and that’s beautiful. That’s amazing that that happened.
Alexandra: I think that people always knew that I had queer parents. I never received homophobia from people in drama. Yes, there was stuff outside of drama that I felt all kinds of things, but within the drama community, they were pretty accepting. Except for the few folks who I got into Facebook arguments with who made arguments about the Bible.
Esteban: They brought religion into a public education system, yes.
Alexandra: But I, again, was like you. I didn’t come out till after—well not after college but during college.
Esteban: I came out the first day of college by accident. And that’s like plain and simple. My parents had just left, I was emotional. I was in a very sweet fraternity. . . This gentleman named Wade comes up to me. He’s helping me unpack, and he’s like, “Esteban, I hope you don’t mind me asking, but are you gay?” And without the slightest thought, I just said yes. In that moment I tripped out of the closet and became Esteban Silva and who I am and what I’ve always been proud to be. But, yeah, I totally tripped out of the closet. It was hilarious.
Alexandra: Yeah, you just felt comfortable.