Gay Caballeros

Inside the secret world of Dallas' mayates

Ruiz had a car, which was helpful for Jorge, a mayaton, a gay man who "lives for the thrill of having a straight man in his bed," as Ruiz puts it. So he would call Ruiz and ask him to take him out. "Vamos a coger viejos," Jorge used to tell him. Ruiz offers a diplomatic translation: "We're going to pick up guys."

They used to set out into the night, Ruiz at the wheel and Jorge not revealing their destination. Ruiz endured the strange ritual because he'd decided that he was "going to expose myself to HIV before I got exposed to it," and it seemed as if Jorge might be a good guide.

Ruiz's campaign of self-education involved much more than packing up and moving from Odessa and happening to meet Jorge. One day in high school, his mother was flipping over his bed so that its innards wouldn't settle, and she came across a journal in which Ruiz had written about his emotions. He'd prudently kept the language vague, but that didn't fool his mom, a strict Jehovah's Witness who had immigrated to West Texas with Ruiz's father from Mexico.

Fiebre Latino, on Harry Hines Boulevard, is a favorite 
haunt for mayates.
Mark Graham
Fiebre Latino, on Harry Hines Boulevard, is a favorite haunt for mayates.
El Amanecer ("The Dawn"), off Northwest Highway, 
attracts a mixed crowd--including a few mayates. 
Among mayates, the activo partner maintains 
his sense of masculinity. Therefore, in his mind, he is not 
gay.
Mark Graham
El Amanecer ("The Dawn"), off Northwest Highway, attracts a mixed crowd--including a few mayates. Among mayates, the activo partner maintains his sense of masculinity. Therefore, in his mind, he is not gay.

His mother was sitting on his bed after he got home from school with the journal open, but Ruiz denied that he was gay. Five months later, however, when he thought she hadn't returned from a trip, he decided to go to a gay bar for the first time. He almost made it back to his bedroom at 1:30 the next morning when a light suddenly came on and his mother demanded to know where he'd been.

She kept badgering him until he told her he was, in fact, gay. Ruiz tallied up for me the damage inflicted on him that night: three cracked ribs, one black eye, a busted lip, three kicks to the stomach and assorted missing patches of hair, all courtesy of his mother, he says. But Ruiz didn't wallow in self-pity: Several days later, he told his boyfriend to call his pager if the dis-fellowship meeting at the church lasted more than an hour. The boyfriend kept paging him until one of the church elders asked what the noise was. "That's my boyfriend calling; I've got to go," Ruiz said, and he moved to Dallas.

And so driving around with Jorge, not knowing where he was going, was Ruiz's way of compensating for the limited world experience West Texas had to offer a young gay Mexican-American. One night they ended up at Fiebre Latino. "It freaked me out at first," Ruiz says. "I had more delicate features then, and I still had long hair, so a lot of guys would hit on me, but these were all these Mexican macho, intimidating-looking guys."

Ruiz realized that Jorge was using him as bait. "He's effeminate," Ruiz says about Jorge, "and he's not very cute." If a gay man were to show up at Fiebre because he wanted to end up with a Mexican immigrant, he would need to be almost aggressively effeminate. "They don't go for a guy who acts like a guy," Ruiz says. "I was very successful at attracting them, but I never went home with anybody. I would get them, and then he would take them."

This became a symbiotic act for the duo. Ruiz got tutored in the transmission of HIV. "I thought that these guys thought that they were really dancing with girls," he recalls. "Some of them did. But after a while, when I started to notice that they were paying attention to me as well and I was wearing jeans and a shirt, then I knew that it was more than just being on the down-low."

And late at night, amid the catcalls and sly winks of the immigrants at Fiebre and other bars, Jorge got his men.


Ruiz didn't return to Fiebre Latino for a long time after he started working for Southwestern. But he and the other interviewers in Southwestern's Community Prevention and Intervention Unit are engaged in a behavioral study--the Health Information Survey, or H.I.S. --that attempts to track how HIV is being transmitted among men in Dallas who have sex with other men. There is an oddly scientific way that they go about corralling the MSMs, or men who have sex with other men. In order for a particular nightspot to be certified as a legitimate venue in the H.I.S. survey, interviewers like Ruiz must prove that at least 75 percent of the men who gather there are sexually interested in other men. Once they do, they start visiting the place if the owner allows it. Stationed outside the bar, they ask the people going in and out if they'd like to take part in an anonymous survey that will pay them $25 (and another $25 if they agree to take an HIV blood test). Seventy-five percent isn't a difficult number to attain at a place like Bamboleo's. But Ruiz wanted to include bars such as Fiebre Latino and El Amanecer ("The Dawn") on Shadybrook Lane, off Northwest Highway, where he had heard there were mayates.
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