I am excited to introduce our readers to amazing and caring people who live, work, play, and do business in our community and city. Learning about people of all lifestyles, talents, and personalities that I think would be interesting for our readers to enjoy. San Diego has a wonderful diversity of individuals who make our slice of paradise the greatest place to live and enjoy each other’s uniqueness.
Franko aka Franceska has been a leader, activist, performer, and a friend to so many people were ever he goes. We here in San Diego, especially the HIV/AIDS and Latino community have seen him in the forefront of the fight, and he never backs down or away from doing what he loves to do: helping people. I am proud to introduce you to my dear friend, Franko Guillen, San Diego’s very own Latino Angel.
How did you end up in San Diego and what do you love about it?
I moved to San Diego in 1980 from Stockton, California where I had started my life as an activist for the Latino community. Working from sunup to sundown in the worst conditions of the fields filled with pesticides that were killing the workers and their newborn children. I had a chance to meet Cesar Chavez and marched with him a few times. When I was getting ready to graduate from The University of the Pacific, GRID (Gay-Related Immune Deficiency) later known as HIV (Human Immunodeficiency) started to be known as a Homosexual Virus. My life was threatened and there was no quality of life for me in my own city any longer. With only four units to finish my career, I had to pack a few things I had and moved to San Diego in 1980! San Diego was a very closed-minded city back in those early days. When it came to Latinos in the Gay community, employees of the Gay bars would openly tell Latinos, myself included that “México was ten minutes away so go back to your own country”. They did not know that I had enough balls and would not take it sitting down, that’s when I started working for the RESPECT of my culture, my music, and my hard-working PEOPLE. By the end of 1981 I received a phone call from a woman I had met a few weeks before who was renting a studio to a couple of young Latinos whom she believed were infected with the new virus. She wanted them to leave before the rest of the tenant’s found out. I took it upon myself to bring them home with me in the middle of the night, they were my first Angels of Light. Sadly, they only lived a few weeks; they showed me how to be empathetic and helped me realize that I needed to dedicate my life to my fellow man who were dying of AIDS. I officially started my career after that by taking care of HIV infected individuals. By the end of 1982, I found myself combining my activism and my work to my Gay brothers. I could not turn my back on them. I retired from the HIV field in 2020, I continue to do fundraising for the few causes I still believe in!
As a young Gay Latino man, what did you have to sacrifice to become the leader you are in both communities?
Nothing… when you feel that you’re sacrificing and learning how to be a better human by doing what is right, it humbles oneself and encourages you do more for the less fortunate. I always have said do what you love, and believe in yourself, then you will get so much more done. Do not waste your valuable time on something you do not believe in!
As a Gay and Latino activist what would you say was one of your biggest and proudest moments for equality and how has it changed your life?
After five years in San Diego, I finally got Clint Johnson and Johnny Moore to allow me to do a benefit for Tijuana’s AIDS causes at B’JA’S Bar. With music in Spanish all night and a wonderful English Female Impersonation Show at 7:00 pm and the MAIN SHOW ALL IN SPANISH AT 9:00 PM SHARP! Also, when Teresa Oyos and I put our hearts together to put on a benefit for a Children’s Garden at the Pride Festival. So many LGBT parents who have children could now come to the Pride festival knowing their kids were in good hands. It touched my heart to know we helped make this happen by raising the funds needed. Another great thing that I am blessed and proud of is when a group of us activists from Tijuana and San Diego opened Las Memoria’s, the first AIDS Hospice in Tijuana in 1988.
How old were you when you first got involved with fighting for our Gay and Latino causes, and what made you feel that you needed to step up?
I was 15 years of age in 1969 when I realized how strong and how lucky I was to be able to scream as LOUD as I could that I was a Proud Homosexual. My beautiful immediate Family taught me values and principles that I carried with me to this day. I wanted other kids and adults to be totally free to be themselves, to empower themselves, to educate themselves, and to be honest with themselves. I wanted them to learn to live a true and peaceful life. We have a choice to either choose to continue to live a lie or live FREE and PROUD and learn to be HAPPY!
Who is one of your mentors and how have they changed your life?
Mother Teresa, she spoke with actions, she lived among the sick and unwanted, she loved all citizens of the world!
From September 15 through October 15 we celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month, as a Latino activist what would you like the world to know about your heritage?
Our wonderful diverse cultures are the most celebrated in the World, family values, and traditions are so important to our culture. Unfortunately, many Latinos go without elderly care because there are very few nursing homes in Latin America. We as a people welcome them into our homes and take care of our elders. We are very accepting of our fellow human beings from around the world. Our culture treats them with respect, we welcome people by saying Mi Casa es su Casa! (My Home is your Home) and we mean it! México is the only official country that celebrates it’s dead and is, after Mother’s Day the second most Celebrated day! Día de los Muertos!
If you could witness any event of the past, present, or future, what would it be and why?
THE END OF HIV/AIDS!
If you could give advice to someone who would love to follow in your footsteps and become involved as an activist, what would you tell them?
Learn to be strong, live with values and principles, don’t allow one individual to make decisions for you, be strong and do what is right. If you don’t feel appreciated and respected most likely you are not, so move on to something that will. Remember activists should unite and if you are in a group that fights all the time then you need to find a group that is positive and wants to help each other. Do what I did become a free-lance activist and help as many groups as possible and individuals who want to help society!
What are your top five valves you live by?
Honesty, Responsibility, Always on time, Family Values,
Respect for myself and for others.
Gratitude is so important in each of our lives, what are you most grateful for?
I know that I am so blessed, I am grateful for the honest life I have lived and continue living. Being healthy at my 68 years of youth.
Facebook: Franko Guillen