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Viva Mi Gente!: 12 Latino Celebrities and Characters Who Thrust HIV/AIDS Into Popular Culture

May 15, 2013


Lady Catiria

Lady Catiria

Catiria Reyes, better known as Lady Catiria, was a Puerto Rican drag performer, film actress and transgender beauty pageant winner. She was one of the main performers at the New York City nightclub La Escuelita. She was the first person to win two titles at the Miss Continental pageant in Chicago. After winning the Miss Continental Plus pageant, which features large-bodied trans and drag women, she decided to compete in the Miss Continental pageant, spending nearly $20,000 preparing for the contest including dieting, working out with a trainer, getting liposuction and losing 30 pounds. In 1995, she won Miss Continental. During the process of getting ready for the pageant, she learned she was HIV positive.

Lady Catiria announced she was HIV positive at the 1996 Miss Continental show during her last performance as reigning title holder. She wore a custom-made plain black gown with an AIDS ribbon made of rhinestones on the collar. Lady Catiria was featured in POZ magazine in 1999 and made a cameo in the 1995 film To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar in the Webster Hall drag pageant scene. She died of AIDS complications on May 3, 1999.

Rosie Perez has described herself as a Lady Catiria fan, attending her show numerous times after To Wong Foo star John Leguizamo introduced her to La Escuelita. Puerto Rican gay scholars like Lawrence La Fountain-Stokes have written about her importance in the New York gay community, and La Escuelita has released videos of her performances and decorated its walls with memorabilia dedicated to her.

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Reader Comments:

Comment by: Yaeger Fri., Jul. 31, 2015 at 12:11 am EDT
Oh my how things have really changed, that it has become almost fashionable to be hiv positive. I remember when the disease first came to be, and where I was when I heard about this unknown disease, where it seemed that many people were dying around me.Was I scared of course who was not. But as some people I knew were passing over with this disease I still went to see them in the hospitals as often as I could. I think they really appreciated that about me, that fear never stopped me from going to see my friends, and associates on the bus. Therefore, I treated them the way I would have wanted to have been treated. But I really thought by now there would be a cure for the disease.
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Comment by: Anonymous Sat., Jul. 11, 2015 at 8:19 am EDT
Hola me hize la prueba hace dos crmanas pero me comenzo el sangrado despues paro y ahora otra ves tengo un poco de dolor en la caders y un poco enfrente y me hago la prueba muchas veces mas y sale positiva no se que hacer
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Comment by: Miguel (El Centro Ca,) Sat., Jul. 12, 2014 at 10:57 am EDT
I am 52 years old and want to find a woman who is HIV positive. Recommend places to contact me. Thank you
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Comment by: OhioMan (Alliance, Ohio) Wed., Jun. 19, 2013 at 11:20 am EDT
I recall Pedro quite well...I was living in Los Angeles at the time and HIV was so new and scary. Pedro was an Idol to us all and helped to explain this horrible illness...Thanks Pedro..
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Comment by: Marta L. (richmond va) Sun., May. 26, 2013 at 12:23 am EDT
my soul can take it it is my body that fails me some times I am 63 years old and hope to live some more don't know how many more. I fell very happy and some times so sad is all part of the prossees . learn to take it one day at a time.
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