Dan Guerrero is an activist, a producer, and a performer. His one-man show “Gaytino: Made in America” is a journey through his life, Chicano history, and gay activism. TPR’s Norma Martinez had a chance to talk with the 76-year-old actor and his journey as a Latino LGBT activist.
Norma: I had seen a piece of your show Gaytino online and there’s a segment on there where you say when someone is termed a Chicano that means that they’re some sort of an activist. Do you consider yourself a Chicano?
Dan: Yes, absolutely. And ‘Chicano’ is still a very, very hot button term. Because there are those that embrace it and very proud of it, and others who go, ‘ah, that’s like something from the `60s.’ When I was growing up, we’re talking the ‘50s, that’s what it was. And so those that had started to stand up and say ‘hey! Where are our rights?’ ‘Oh, no, those are troublemakers.’ My dad considered himself totally Chicano. My dad was known as the father of Chicano music, Lalo Guerrero. He was born in Tucson. And I did a documentary on him. I purposely termed it, it’s called ‘Lalo Guerrero: The Original Chicano.’ And I call it that because he was born in 1916 in Tucson, and it was that 1st generation of people born here of Mexican parents that came over during the Mexican Revolution, during that time. In their neighborhood, in their barrio, it was Mexico. Everything was in Spanish, and the stores, everything! And then they went to school, and if they spoke Spanish, which was their first language, they’d put soap in their mouth or they’d stand them in the corner. They were punished. And so it was that first generation that had to learn to live in the 2 worlds. And we still do.
You’re not also considered a Chicano activist, but a gay Chicano activist. And this has got to be a much taller mountain to climb.
It is, it is. And that’s why, maybe, not on purpose or by design, but I was a long time Chicano activist, and then after I wrote my solo show I found myself in the position of being a gay activist. I was always Chicano, I was always gay, but I just went about being that. I was never involved in either. And part of it is because of geography. I grew up in LA, in East LA to be precise, but at age 20 I moved to NY. And we’re talking 1962. So during all of the big Chicano movement and the moratorium and all that, I was in NYC singing & dancing in musicals. For me, being gay in the `60s, first of all you didn’t talk about it at all. And when it all started to open up in the 70s, and Stonewall 1969, for me that was a private matter, I was not ready to come out, as it were. And when I moved back to Los Angeles in the early `80s, I did move back with a vengeance and specifically to get involved in the Latino community, and because I’m a producer and director, I did it through that. And then I was gay on the side. And in New York? Being gay, come on. Being in musical theater? We would bully the straight boys. But again it was private. I was always ‘out’ as it were. And I never came out. I oozed out. Because I left home when I was 20 and I moved to NY where I could just wear hoop earrings if I wanted to – I did not – but I could do anything I wanted. Every time I’d come home at Christmas ‘when are you going to get married’ and after about 5 Christmases people stopped asking. You didn’t come out in the 40s & 50s. So just kind of oozed out. Let things take their path. So I’m saying my coming out, and my gaydom, and my Latinoness are completely different from most, I believe.
Learn more about Dan and the show at http://gaytino.com/