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Jardín de las Mariposas: A Safe Space for Queer Migrants in Tijuana

 January 26, 2024 at 5:06 PM PST

S1: This story contains graphic descriptions of abuse and violence. Listener discretion is advised.

S2: You are listening to Port of Entry.

S3: This season of Port of Entry , we've been showcasing Lgbtiq+ stories of the border region. We featured a two part episode on the fight for marriage equality in Baja.

S4: Very gradually we started getting , you know , calls from representatives saying like , you know what , we will vote in favor of this initiative. We will support same sex marriage. And and it was amazing. But it was unfortunately not enough.

S2: And two stories about resilience and finding your boys in an unwelcoming environment through art like drag and writing.

S4: But I've learned that over the years that , you know , drag. When I get into drag , it's really just me. You know , drag is just like the facade. It's just like the what's on the outside. And in a way it gives me some confidence. But it's really just me , right ? It's still. Hi , man.

S3: Amigos , Amigas and amigos , our latest season is coming to an end and.

S2: Well , we are done. So thank you for stopping by. And as well as Pronto by.

S3: Haha , just kidding. We have one more story for y'all before we close out the season.

S2: Today in our final episode of this series , we want to share the story of a very special place in Tijuana dedicated to helping queer migrants.

S5: Roberto Garcia Soy activist LGBT y en este momentos soy administrator general del Hardin de las Mariposa en ausencia nuestra directora Yolanda Rocha.

S3: This is Roberto , the operating manager of Jardin de la mariposa , a temporary shelter and asylum for migrants and refugees of gender and sexual diversity.

S5: De hecho , nosotros es un espacio seguro libre de violencia dedicado para la comunidad LGBT and contexto de mobility de transito , or de migration.

S2: Like some of the other stories we have showcased this season , how Mariposa has impacted the lives of those that have come across it.



S3: From Kpbs. This is Port of Entry.

S2: Where we tell Crossborder stories that connect us.

S3: I'm Alan Lilienthal.

S2: And I'm Natalie Gonzalez.

S3: While the landscape for queer rights is slowly but surely improving in some parts of the world.

S2: Like here in Baja.

S3: This progress is not universal.

S2: In other countries , many members of the queer community flee their homes in fear for their lives or in search of opportunities unavailable to them in their home country , simply for being queer.

S3: Remember Alejandro Sanchez from episode.



S4: Coming up on June , I think it would be great to start a conversation on how a potential collaboration between Port of Entry and Baja Lgbtq+ community could look like. If this is a topic.

S3: We want to close this season with something full of hope , to contrast all the craziness going on around the world , the story of how this little safe space at the periphery of Tijuana came about is that story.

S6: My daughter.

S2: Our producer Julio and I met each other outside of Dallas , Mariposa to meet Roberto for the first time. At first we felt a bit disoriented , wondering if we were in the right place. The way to get there let us through heels and narrow one way streets in a quiet , working class neighborhood. But that quickly went away when we turned the street corner and saw a two storey maroon house adorned with a big rainbow butterfly.

S6: I see Roberto.

S3: On that same corner were two women having a cigarette and enjoying the cool December sun next to a pack of three dogs.

S2: One of them joked saying she was a hostess of the shelter. She indicated the way and we made it to the entrance of the house.

S6: But I don't know.

S2: The first thing we saw was a display of multiple pride flags covering the walls of the entrance hall. To the left was a double door leading to a kitchen and a dining hall , and to our right was a closed door bearing the name Yolanda Rocha.

S3: Roberto opened the door. Hola.

S6: Hola.

S5: Hola , Roberto.

S6: Would you like for you.

S2: Inside the office ? We sat on a big L-shaped couch directly across Roberto's desk. Behind him were a series of pictures of a middle aged woman and her family and friends. On the other end of the couch was Roberto's mother , keeping warm under a blanket in front of the heater.

S3: Roberto mentioned he was taking care of her while he was working because she was not feeling too well.

S5: La primera caravan a migrant. Este naquele entonces presidente municipal Gastelum y no solicitar formerly nosotros recibe vamos a migrantes.

S3: Roberto took over the shelter after the director and founder Yolanda Rocha , suffered a stroke.

S5: Pero al final del amo nosotros tenemos el espacio Y tenemos este las camas para poder recibir gente. The pictures.

S3: Behind the desk were Yolanda's family pictures.

S5: En su momentos. Yolanda a la responsabilidad dijo Bueno. Vamos a entrar es mas por humanidad por otra cosa. Pero al final , pues nos términos dando el tema y ahorita por ciento immigrant.

S2: The shelters started as a drug rehabilitation center exclusively for members of the Lgbtq+ community. Roberto says it was the first of its kind in Latin America.

S3: However , Roberto explains that due to the large influx of migrants arriving in Tijuana and other parts of Mexico back in 2017 , the city requested the center to be converted into a temporary shelter for migrants. According to Roberto , it then became the first exclusively queer shelter in Latin America , hosting everyone from queer youth to single mothers escaping violence and persecution. We couldn't confirm or deny if it was the first drug rehab shelter exclusively for queer folks in Latin America , or Mexico , for that matter. But it definitely was the first in Tijuana.

S2: Since then , Roberto mentions that Cardinal Mariposa has housed thousands of queer migrants from around the whole world. Cardinal Mariposa , by the way , is Spanish for garden of the butterflies. Gracias.

S5: Gracias. Adios o gracias a nos vemos en un punto populares en cuanto a la migration , incluso el camino comenta nos vienen nos quieren alguna manera algun flyer de nosotros in Guatemala , o algun companero amigo de ellos ya cruzado estar en Estados Unidos de una manera nosotros lo ciudadanos.

S2: Roberto told us that jardin de las mariposa has gained popularity by sheer word of mouth.

S3: People who've been in the shelter continue to spread the word to other people in need.

S5: Entonces por qué ya ya solicitud el servicio o q ya esta en Estados Unidos.

S3: We asked Roberto what the folks who use their services typically flee from principalmente.

S5: Criminal organizations q liga tattoos Tierra amenaza series mujer transit quiere de alguna manera de alguna manera este recruiter para prostitution para distribution de drogas.

S2: Incluso for folks in Mexico , he says it is organized crime. He says members of the Lgbtq+ community are sometimes forced to work for the cartels. And if you're a trans woman , they can force you into prostitution.

S3: And not only that , according to a study published in June of 2023 by Mexico's National Commission on Minimum Wages , having a non-normative identity or orientation.

S2: Meaning being queer.

S3: Increases the probability of being denied employment and of suffering some type of violence in the workplace.

S2: This problem extends beyond Mexico.

S3: According to a UN statement on the International Day Against Homophobia , Transphobia and Biphobia. Trans and gender diverse people are at a heightened risk of experiencing physical and psychological abuse. They frequently encounter threats such as beatings , rape , torture , and even murder , as their gender expression is often perceived as a challenge to dominant social norms in their home countries.

S2: This is exactly why it is so important for a place like Cardinals Mariposa to exist.

S5: Nosotros nos vemos contigo a dart. Las criticas necesario a dart. La informacion oficial se kompromat a lo q es la estancia. El espacio seguro.

S3: It offers legal assistance , ranging from asylum requests for the US to job searches within Mexico. For those who get denied most.

S2: In the shelter wait for their appointment with U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

S3: Or CBP for.

S2: Asylum in the states.

S3: But most importantly , it's a safe haven for those fleeing and fear for their lives. Individuals too scared to even go outside.

S5: No quieren salir buscar trabajo no quieren salir a la exterior porque es de miedo el exterior. Entonces nosotros nos compromise. Tenemos poder estar dentro de la dentro del espacio seguro. Hola.

S6: Hola. Hola hola. This espacio espacio.

S5: Es es commodore es area de juntas. Es también esta aqui. SE decision muchas cosas a veces cuando tenemos.

S2: Before we left Roberto gave us a tour of the shelter. We walked through the kitchen and dining hall which was being cleaned after a recent lunch. Then we made our way to the patio and Roberto mentioned that they use it as a meeting space and also as a place to hang their clothes to dry.

S5: Este cada cada , por ejemplo , las dos de la ya todos. Okay.

S6: Aqui VA a ser el.

S5: Consultant para a se colloquia. Ah yes ya lo vamos estamos esperando inaugural antes de terminal ano. Pero lo vamos a.

S3: The shelter can accommodate a total of 40 people at any given time , and has strict rules to ensure safety and harmony for all. But during times of crises , like when the war between Russia and Ukraine broke out , they've housed around 100 people at a time.

S2: A couple of weeks later , we went back to speak with two residents of the shelter.

S3: Samantha from Mexico and Hector from Honduras. Hola.

S6: Hola.

S7: Samantha Vega. I suggest they leave in Mexico. Uh , Hector Lopez. So the Honduras and El Departamento de Oro , municipio , Quito.

S3: Samantha and actor were both waiting for their CBP appointment. Jardin de las Mariposa provided the assistance to fill out an online application and schedule an asylum appointment.

S2: That is helpful because many migrants do not have access to a cell phone. Some of them are robbed along the way to Tijuana , and many others simply don't have reliable internet.

S3: Both Samantha and actor fled situations of violence in their place of origin.

S7: La maras in Honduras. My orientation sexual porque bastante discrimination y también puede hacer cosas. No no no no pues.

S2: Actor was forced out of Honduras due to the threats he got from the mothers.

S3: The Ms13 gang.

S7: Igual porque esta me mama esta hermanas. Puedes igual puedo denuncia pero me hermanas quieren entonces salir uno tranquilo Como si nada pasado.

S2: He told us they were forcing him to do things he didn't want to do. Actor not only feared being recruited by the gangs , but he also feared being targeted because of his sexual orientation.

S7: Si si porque no no no tolerance tampoco si a veces es una persona de Los miembros de ellos con uno tampoco Como quieren hombres.

S3: He says the maras or gang members don't tolerate gay people. They need macho men to join the ranks.

S7: You're kidding. And they. Head to Casa para el hombre igual. Yo lo Mira y lo Como la digo porque Como yo camino no se yo me Como Como mujer puede hacer el riesgo mas grande. Todavia porque ya pues hay mucha gente homophobic.

S2: He left without reporting the harassment to authorities to protect his mother and sister , who are still in Honduras. If he spoke out , Hector says the gang would go after his family.

S7: Pues no no no me hermano. Porque no la verdad salido no de su casa.

S3: He left one night , face covered in tears. He didn't want to leave his home.

S7: He said to me no porque el algo de la noche. Nada mas por lo mismo. Porque igual mas por las Mara.

S2: We asked him how he felt in Taiwan.

S7: Pues momentos muy muy muy. Bueno puede estar con familia.

S3: He obviously misses his family and is very sad he can't be with them during the holidays.

S7: He was born in Mexico. He was different. Pero Tobia no no no encuentra una persona perfecto Como Como pareja pero pero no sé mas adelante poder encontrar alguna pareja.

S2: He told us he felt lonely , missing the affection of a loved one , something he would like to find in Mexico.

S7: De personas no es Como México bastante casada en Honduras , pues la mayoria de nosotros nos vamos a.

S3: Just like actor Samantha also left because of threats of violence , she opened up about the circumstances that led her to flee her hometown in Guanajuato , Mexico. Yes.

S8: Yes. You know , you may.

S3: Know she was the woman we met outside of Hardin , Dallas , Mariposa the first time we visited.

S2: When we sat down to interview her , she seemed eager to tell her story and talk to someone new. It was hard to stomach what she shared with us.

S8: De la ciudad de Guadalajara y durante el camino hacia donde me me me me de. Y y eso estos después.

S2: Samantha is a trans woman and was living in Guadalajara when she was the victim of a horrible transphobic attack.

S3: Three men took her to the outskirts of the city to beat her. They threatened to set her on fire.

S8: So muchos has done this to us in common. Right ? Haciendo trabajo sexual porque. No no no. In the US.

S3: Samantha was abandoned to her fate and had to walk long distances back to the city. No one would come to her aid. She says she spent days without food or water. She resorted to sex work to be able to feed herself.

S2: Luckily , someone called the authorities and an ambulance picked her up.

S3: She was almost unconscious when that happened.

S8: I'm just personas. Estaba mas transsexual ? I intervene in an aspect in para pregunta ajuda un agua un policia necesitas camera and he varias amigas mas muertes. No son can con una de las cosas las. Con armas blancas con con armas de fuego. Entonces todo esto es un accidental encontrar chicas asi Como yo. Entonces yo no quiero Como realmente permanent lugar donde tengo.

S3: The person from the hospital Samantha reached out to her dad for help.

S8: In la vida papa porque casa es la la prochaine estaba. Yo. El siempre USA Como alternatives and Psalm 23 anos de la Liga Leon. Siempre yo siempre puede Sierra en un centro de rehabilitation.

S3: To add insult to injury , her father agreed to help her , yes , but only if she checked herself into rehab to cure herself of her queerness.

S8: Siempre todo esto puede las. Cosas del pelo.

S3: Checking her into a rehab center was her father's way of forcing her to stop dressing and behaving like a woman.

S8: Yes , I mean , in Los Angeles. Because you. Know.

S3: When she would give in to her father's demands , she spent three months at a time in rehab. In these facilities , she faced further discrimination , being forced to present herself as a man and cut her hair short.

S2: Regardless of the difficulties Samantha has faced and is still facing , she has kept her spirits high and made an effort to reach out to other trans folks who may be stuck in similar situations.

S8: Yo tengo un canal de YouTube channel. Siempre siempre siempre diario les.

S2: Digo she Keke started a YouTube channel where she talks about her experiences being a trans woman.

S8: User of the UN , Chico Gay. Or I can tell you that the nosotros de toda la comunidad in Tijuana.


S8: As in Miami de Miami. It was yo.

S2: We asked her how she sees herself in the future.

S8: Tranquila si Joe Lugar de Miami. Porque. Viviendo normal y viendo muy feliz viviendo muy este lugar de verdad.

S3: She told us she sees herself living happily in Miami and that she will always be thankful to Jardin de las Mariposa for all the help she's received. We visited the shelter one last time.

S2: On this occasion , we spoke with the son of Yolanda Rocha.

S9: Me ? Nombre es Jaime Antonio Marin Roca. Soy de la mariposa y este me titulo. Este representante legal.

S3: Yolanda is still recovering , but Jaime shared why she's dedicated her life to helping the migrant queer community.

S9: Bueno me madre tuvo experiencia muy joven. Este Ella tuvo problemas de substances , eh ? Entonces Ella , you go on estar este impression y justamente dentro de la prision quedo en recuperacion con entonces.

S2: Jaime told us that his mother suffered from substance addiction in her youth , which landed her in prison.

S9: ERA una mujer trans patty.

S2: She felt lonely and broken dealing with withdrawal symptoms. Luckily someone was there to help her. Patty.

S3: A transgender inmate who took care of her and supported her during those dark moments.

S9: In es un moment , yo creo tenia el vha el desarrollo a tener saida. Entonces este me madre quedo mucho. The patty esta en Los ultimos dias. Cuando fazer in a patty por la vida. Me madre dentro de la del sistema penitentiary. Pues este my mama. Este caso regresar ese mismo apoyo a las personas de la diversidad sexual.

S3: Yolanda made it through. Patty and her became close friends. Years later , the tables turned , but he contracted HIV. She became very sick.

S2: Yolanda took care of her during her last days. Jaime credits that specific experience as Yolanda's call to help queer folks.

S10: In the acido.

S9: El pilar muy fuerte de la organizacion la organization no es igual sin Ella este. Me madre de un infertile cerebral en abril de un cerebral y desde ahi este no puedo caminar no puedo hablar Y entonces este esta en sus tratamientos de physiotherapy. Pero me mama s l l l alma del organization.

S3: Along with his mother. Yolanda.

S2: Yolanda.

S3: Jaime is the co-founder and legal representative of the organization. Yolanda took care of the operation of Cardenas before she had her stroke.

S2: He says his mother has always been the pillar of the organization and everyone feels her absence.

S9: Una mujer bisexual , entonces Ella tiene un gran amor a las personas and addictions a las personas son diversas.

S3: But Yolanda also belongs to the queer community. She is a bisexual woman who dedicated her life to helping queer folks deal with addictions.

S9: Muchas veces nosotros mismo. Y nosotros mismo. Entonces I cosas personales nosotros necesitamos también nosotros podemos nuestras cosas personales a un lado por las emergencia sur la necesidad de las personas o del organization y se van a commando.

S2: He told us that he believes his mother neglected her health due to the pressure and stress of running the operations of.

S9: The diferentes circumstances. Pues este. Es de una a sublimity , pues infirm.

S3: Yolanda never stopped working and she was always looking for the best for the shelter. That was until the stroke forced her to stop. Back.

S2: Back. During our first interview , we asked Roberto how he felt when Yolanda took a leave and he had to take full responsibility for her in Dallas.

S5: Mariposa duro por ciento directora esté a con todas las capacidades. De repente , ya no estamos director y tenemos hacer frente a situaciones nada mas ellas habia Como hacerlo.

S3: He told us it was very difficult at the beginning to fill Yolanda's shoes.

S5: Este pues pues queda en la cabeza. The Proyecto correspondant me trata de hacer lo mejor posible.

S2: He's doing his best , he says.

S3: We asked Roberto how he got started as an activist.

S5: Meaning vacations and vacations. De ser victima de violencia.

S3: Like the residents of the shelter , Roberto had a difficult experience in his youth. That pivotal event ignited his commitment to advocate for queer rights.

S5: The UN club for Sky Blue in LA and Las Centro de Tijuana y un grupo de personas de hombres esta. Este me Dejan practicamente por muerto en la calle.

S2: One night , as he was leaving a club in Tijuana , he was attacked by a group of men , brutally beaten and essentially left for dead.

S3: He was barely conscious.

S5: Diego , la policia y donde donde estaba yo tirado ? Y cuando el es de Michaela de estas personas ? Los policias practicamente llegaron a mis victimas Como se conocen. Entonces me queda me muy claro , pues estaba pasando con un justicia y levantar la mas adelante.

S6: When he was.

S2: Met at the side by the police , he recalls the police embracing the men who beat Roberto like they knew each other.

S3: From this experience , something changed in Roberto and he felt the need to raise his voice against injustices like the one he experienced.

S5: Activists empezamos hacer activism justamente después de ser victimas este cuando no nos pasa nada mas un privilege al final del dia este. Pero cuando nos pasa unos toca , nosotros las victimas.

S3: Roberto says many activists began their journey in activism after experiencing victimization themselves.

S5: Lo empezamos haber todo diferente manera cosas sabemos yo tuve al sobre vivir. Pero el otro no sobre Viviana y si yo sobre vive la pena luchar una porque no se vuelve a repetir lo me paso on me. Este segundo porque las generations vienen. No no no no repeating eso pues.

S2: He says that he was lucky enough to survive. And for that reason it is worth fighting so that no one else has to go through what he went through.

S3: In the last year alone , Jardin de las Mariposa has helped about 600 queer migrants either to cross legally into the US or by offering a safe space for them to wait while they figure out what the next step in their lives is. Some of them may decide to start a new life in Tijuana , while others have their primary and sole objectives set on entering the United States.

S5: De muchos de ellos cuando cruzan Estados Unidos se Han vuelto activists for the LGBT migrant de la LGBT Latina. Este es muy bueno activists Como nosotros queremos aqui aqui con un detonator de de de de este tipo de se pueden generar. Hay madera , hay buena madera aqui para generar activists con su.

S2: Ultimately , Roberto hopes de las mariposa can be a space that inspires those seeking shelter to one day become activists and fight for the rights of others who might need spaces like Hardin de las Mariposa.

S3: Before we go , we want to thank our now former editor. Alisa.

S2: Alisa.

S4: Barba , who.

S3: Is joining our list of Port of Entry alumni. Alisa was involved with Port of Entry since its early inception , and has always provided guidance and direction to make each episode work and sound like the outstanding show we like it to be. Alisa , thank you so much for your help these last five seasons , and we wish you all the best in your future endeavors.

S2: Thank you for everything , Alisa. Gracias. This episode of Port of Entry was written and produced by Natalie Gonzalez and Cesar Ortiz Franco.

S3: Adrian Villalobos is technical producer and sound designer. Elma Gonzalez Lima Brandao is her editor.

S2: Lisa morissette is director of audio programming and operations , and John Decker is senior director of content development.

S3: This program is made possible in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting , a private corporation funded by the American people.

S2: This project was also made possible with support from California Humanities , a nonprofit partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Visit Calama. Soy yo soy Natalia Gonzalez. Nos vemos pronto.

Hola Friends!

Before we close this season and take a little break, we wanted to leave you with the story of Jardín de las Mariposas, a shelter in Tijuana exclusively for queer migrants. This shelter has impacted the lives of thousands of queer folks who are fleeing violence and face discrimination in their land of origin and is helping many more figure out their next move in life. You won't want to miss this inspiring story of hope!

Nos vemos pronto!



Port of Entry has a whole new set of stories for you, this time centered around LGBTQ+ issues.

This season we dive with our guests on what it means to be queer in the borderlands, finding yourself and fighting for your rights.

Follow hosts Natali Gonzalez and Alan Lilienthal as they sit down with these fascinating people who share their stories. Listen in and join us!

If you like this episode, show us some love @portofentrypod


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“Port of Entry'' is written, produced and directed by Julio C. Ortiz Franco.
Adrian Villalobos is our Technical Producer and Sound Designer.
Elma Gonzalez is our editor.
Episodes are translated by Julio C. Ortiz Franco and Natali Gonzales.
Lisa Morrisette-Zapp is Director of Audio Programming and Operations and John Decker is the Director of Content Development.
This program is made possible, in part, by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people.