Sunday, August 22nd, 2021

Queerguru reviews L.A. QueenCiañera ‘from harrowing to happy’ the life story of trans activist Bamby Salcedo


As this documentary starts to unfold, Bamby Salcedo explains why at the age of 50 she is about to have her own version of a quinceañera party.  This is a Mexican traditional celebration that all girls have at the age of 15 to mark their coming of age and enter into womanhood.    For reasons we shall soon discover Bamby had to miss out on when she had come of age.    But the figure of 15 years is very significant to her now as it marks the period of her life since she was 35 and finally got to turn her hellish existence into her now exceptional wonderful and successful life.

As the details of those 35 years of her life unfold on the screen we see they are crammed with endless harrowing experiences that would have defeated most of us.  There is her rough childhood in Mexico where her single-parent mother locked Bamby and her siblings in the house while she went to work.  Then the physical/sexual abuse of her new stepfather is still so painful that Bamby cannot even talk about it on camera.

As an undocumented transwoman, she is raped in the men’s jail she has been confined to. And it’s a sheer miracle that she survived both this and her spell living with other drug addicts in make-shift tents on LA’s Skid Row.

There are no holds barred in this documentary from queer filmmaker Pedro Peira who despite this litany of awful events, can still recognize the inner strength and resolve that will propel Bamby into her eventually making such a major life change.  She is HIV+ and had embraced the enormous risks of sex work and hard drugs which give her several close encounters with death. However, finally, in a rehab center with a clearer state of mind and a healthier attitude, Bamby starts the next part of her journey.

By now as we have caught glimpses of her true character it comes as no surprise that when Bamby elects to work as an activist that she will not do this half-heartedly.  In 2009 she founds the powerful and unique TransLatin@ Coalition, which builds visibility and a voice for the Trans Latinx community across the United States. The success of the Coalition inspires Bamby to creates the nonprofit Angels of Change to address a severe lack of visibility and funding for the trans youth at children’s hospitals.  In a matter of a few years, this seemingly poor powerless transwoman becomes THE powerhouse in the community.  She goes back to College to gain a Master’s Degree and has also collected several prestigious community awards for her very effective activism.

Now at last having fully come to terms with her own trans identity, Bamby is still however is battling with the US Immigration service. It comes to a point when she is actually scheduled for deportation but her trans status earned her the protection of a “withholding of removal,” as the U.S. government recognized that returning Bamby to Mexico would be a likely death sentence.  Ironically under the USA’s bizarre rules, the fact she is trans may actually end up preventing her from being awarded permanent status.

So now her story ends it is back to where the film started with Bamby and a  multitude of friends preparing for this major over-the-top 50th Birthday/Quinceañera party. For any trans woman to actually survive that long is cause for celebration in itself. But for Bamby who has turned her most painful past experiences to make a real difference for others (and herself), it’s an event that all her celebrity supporters such as Patricia Arquette and Rosario Dawson are so very happy to attend.

Bamby Salcedo is a wonderful inspirational figure that the whole LGBTQ+ community (and others) will always be indebted to.  She so deserves this affectionate profile, as hers is a story that so needs sharing 




Posted by queerguru  at  13:02


Genres:  documentary, trans

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