Drag the Vote: With Racism Bubbling Up Again, Latin Voters Need to Cast Their Ballots

Frieda Layes (aka Danny Casillas)

“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best,” Donald Trump claimed during his 2015 presidential announcement speech. “They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.”

A key aspect of Trump’s 2015 campaign was a demonization of immigrants, a theme that permeated into his presidential administration, from enacting a Muslim travel ban to the separation and internment of central American refugees. Which makes it somewhat baffling that a sizable number of Latino voters, who make up the largest non-white eligible voting bloc in the country, are gravitating towards Trump. According to a Univision survey conducted back in September, approximately a quarter of Latino voters view Trump favorably, specifically Hispanic men drawn by his facade of machismo.

“The thing that initially attracted me and keeps me tied to him is that he has taught Republicans how to not just win,” said Reymundo Torres, a Catholic Arizonan of Mexican descent, “but no longer throw our faces and bodies in front of every punch that the left is willing to throw.”

With the cutthroat nature of this year’s presidential race, every vote is more important than ever. As part of our “Drag the Vote” interview series, we Kiki’ed with Frieda Laye (née Danny Casillas), one third of Los Angeles’ Latin drag troika Chico’s Angeles, to discuss racism, the impact of Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett, and the advantages of cycling. 

Q. Why is this election important to you?

A. Because it’s the most crucial vote against evil ever.

Q. What’s the biggest issue that concerns you in this election?

A. The newly appointed SCOTUS justice who has a history of anti-LGBTQ+ rights.

Frieda Layes

Q. Amy Coney Barrett? We’ve nicknamed her “Chief Justice Handmaid’s Tale.”

A. (Laughs) Yes, with her history on LGBTQ rights, and the conservative majority on the Supreme Court, it seems like they have paved the way to take away marriage rights. It’s a very real threat right now.

Q. Now you’ve lived in Los Angeles for 25 years.  As a long time Angeleno, what do you feel is the biggest issue facing our city right now?

A.  I guess climate change. Our state in particular, and our city, are threatened by wildfires that are increasingly more dangerous and damaging. I think out city can do more. Make it easier to not use our cars. More rail, more infrastructure for bikes. There are a lot of bike trails through the city, but a lot are not connected. Like, Fountain Avenue would make a great way for bike lanes, both directions. Fountain isn’t two lanes in Los Angeles, but it is in West Hollywood. But residents don’t want to give up their thoroughfare. It would be less convenient for them.

Q. Are you a cyclist?

A. I am not. (Laughs) I’m barely a walker. I seriously moved six blocks away from work. When we open up again, I’ll walk to work. I live close to my grocery store. Everything I need is right by me. 

Q. Let’s talk a bit about race. Chico’s Angels is a Latinx act. But this year, oddly enough, a strong voter base for Trump is straight Latino men. Now, are you yourself Latino, or do you just play one on stage?

A. The general rule is all the Angels must be Latin. So, yes I’m Latin. I’m going to be un-PC and not say Latinx.” Why don’t we just drop the last vowel and just say Latin?

Q. What would you say is the biggest issue facing the Latin community right now?

A. Goodness. Racism bubbling up again. [Some] people are more emboldened to shout their racist views over [the voices of] everyone else. In the past four years … opinions that weren’t widely held… that started bubbling up, and a smaller group of people are more vocal and emboldened to shout their opinions and racist views over everyone else. 

Q. As an openly gay Latin man, have you personally faced that bigotry over the past four years?

A. Personally I have not. I’ve made myself very comfortable in my little bubble in West Hollywood [Our Chico’s Angeles venue]. Casita del Campo is a Mexican restaurant in Silver Lake, so we’re pretty much in our safe zones. As performers, we have a show so people come to us. I think it would be different if we were touring and there were people who weren’t keen on a bunch of Latin drag queens. I’ve done well insulating myself in places where I’m safe.

Q.  What do you think would be the best way for the rest of the country to expand this bubble West Hollywood has created?

A. Obviously vote for people who are amenable to sharing the world, sharing our spaces. Part of feeling safe where I am is the political climate here: the people on the City Council, the people I’m electing as governor. You can drive along and see Joe Biden signs,  but go south a little more and see Trump signs. Then go further and see Biden signs again.

Q. What is your biggest hope for 2021?

A. That we will have Biden in the White House, and we return to a sense of normality without violent opposition.

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