La Cueva, a Latino queer bar in Chicago’s Little Village on the West Side and described as “oldest Latino drag club in the country” (it opened in 1972) is no longer welcome to some in the community. Something about all that prostitution?
Opponents [of La Cueva …] say that the bar is a site of illegal activity in a neighborhood that is home to many families. They say that La Cueva, a nondescript façade on a busy commercial stretch of West 26th Street, sells alcohol to minors, allows drug dealing on its premises and encourages prostitution in the neighborhood.
“It’s causing a lot of havoc and dismay to the residents of the area,” said Raul Montes, Jr., who organized a protest and press conference outside of La Cueva Aug. 17. On nights that the bar is open, he said, there are “transsexuals and transvestites on every corner,” with “young kids picking them up.” He claimed that he recently was the subject of attempted solicitation by a group of people he thought to be transgender women. “It was disgusting,” he said.
First, I’d like to know what “young kids” have the pocket money to solicit any prostitutes. And second, I’d like to speak to their parents.
Not that Mr. Montes has a problem with your queers.
Montes said that his complaints, which he has taken to the local alderman and police commander, are not motivated by anti-gay bias. “If anybody were to ask me, I don’t have a problem with gay people,” Montes said. “It’s the illegal activity. It could be any type of bar.”
Naturally, the place has its defenders.
Ruben Lechuga, who manages La Cueva and owns the building it is housed in, denied the protesters’ charges. “We don’t have any problems inside,” he said, and when illegal activity is apparent out front, “we call the police.” Lechuga said that the bar had been in its Little Village location for 30 years with no problems from the neighborhood. “I go to the CAPS [ Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy ] meetings every month,” he said, referring to Chicago’s community policing initiative.
Project VIDA, an organization that provides services to people affected by HIV/AIDS, has offices in Little Village. Its executive director, Olivia Sanchez, told Windy City Times that she had been going to the bar since she was 21, drawn to the eclectic crowd that La Cueva attracts. She said that the space is diverse in terms of age, race, and gender expression. “You get your traditional Mexican with the cowboy hat and belt and matching boots—and [ you get ] same-gender couples,” she said. “While you’re in there, it’s like a whole new world from the outside.”
Is anyone surprised that a not-so-chic bar might have patrons that engage in illicit activities? Nope. Does it happen at bars that aren’t geared toward LGBTs? Yep. Is Mr. Montes going after them? Not that I’m aware of.