My mother wasn’t talking to me and I felt like every passerby, even my own reflection in the mirror, was looking at my men’s boots, black cap and men’s button down shirt with disgust, hate and fear because I didn’t fit into their feminine gender costumes, and most importantly, because I was open about being a girl who loved girls. The following year, when I was 20 years old, I met Erika Andrews, who at the time was working at the Dillard’s MAC counter and also performing at the Saint. I was a college student with very little cash, but offered to buy her lunch at the food court (which for me was a huge splurge). We talked closely during her 1 hour lunch break about the discrimination she experienced daily and I shared my stories as well. When I walked her back to work and watched her walk off to her spot behind the color lined black counter, I saw the ugly caras the other women in the store gave her and even spotted one pointing at her while whispering to a customer. Her majesty and strength to walk through all of those bullets awed me, taught me that we must stand tall (even in tacones) if we are to survive and thrive in this world.
I honestly don’t know how I graduated from college, nor paid any of my bills because I was at her shows, every Monday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday for several years after that, and still attended them up until late last year, gathering strength and confidence every time. A few years ago, Jesus Alonzo produced a play titled “A Chicanitos Fairy Tale,” that starred Ms. Erika, and I was called in to do a few things with the production back stage. During that time she and I were able to sit down again for a good long talk. I discovered in our remembering, during the time that she came into my life, my mother was absent and I didn’t have a woman to look up to as I was growing from teenager to Mujer. Erika Andrews was the amazing Mexicana, Mujer, mami, I looked up to. I am grateful for to have been able to tell her that day she was my Mother-Mami role model.
When I enter a room, to this day, I still imagine you and the way you walked fearlessly through a line of fire for many of us. I put on my imaginary tacones, redden my lips and walk tall, confident that my truth will prevail against any hate. And, from one Mami to another, gracias for being my mami and showing me how to be a good one to our daughters. Your memory will always live in my stories. I’ll buy you lunch again one day, and I promise it will not be at the food court.
RIP Erika Andrews March 11, 2013
Anel I. Flores