The Salt Mines Documentary

The Salt Mines is a documentary filmed by Susana Aikin and Carlos Aparicio in the late 1980s. They followed around a group of three transgendered people who lived in the salt mines of New York. Or in other words where New York City keeps their salt stored for snow and ice. They are all drug addicts who support themselves through prostitution. This must be a terribly sad life. The three transgendered people’s names are Sara, Gigi, and Giovanna and they are all Latino.

            Sara, Gigi, and Giovanna have made temporary stay inside a garbage truck that the Sanitation Department uses throughout the winter in order to melt the snow. They are not the only three people staying there; there are many other homeless people that they also share the space with.

            The camera follows Sara as she is washing her face. They start asking her questions about her past. She tells them about how she used to live in Cuba and was actually jailed there at one point. She said she was so excited to come to live in America but no longer is. She says she would rather go back to Cuba even to jail because in America without money you are nothing and she has no money. She said the only good thing about America was the freedom that everyone has to be themselves. She reminisced about a time that she got arrested in Cuba for dying her hair red and after arresting her they proceeded to shave her head as well. I believe that this speaks to how accepting America tries to be to everyone. The fact that someone is different than you in America is not a bad thing. MOST people do not discriminate against those that are different and they certainly would not be punished by the law for being so.

            Giovanna is a tad more optimistic about her life. She is very proud of her “drag” identity and claims “I’m a transvestite to the end.” While I think that it is awesome that she is very comfortable within herself as everyone should be, I was confused by her use of the word transvestite. I thought that in general transgendered people were a little offended by that word and were trying to escape from it.

            I believe that most of these women’s problems stemmed off of their drug addictions. They chose to degrade their bodies only to get money to spend immediately on their next fix of crack. There is no happiness through a life like this. I believe that part of their problems may be due to the fact that they are not attempting to get out of the salt mines and be successful in life. It is truly sad for anyone to be addicted to any sort of drug and I feel that their sadness is due in large part to this. I wish that they would realize that people would accept them and love them without the drugs. I myself have watched many of my very close friends throw away their lives to drugs and I have come to believe that it is because they are scared to confront a problem that they have within themselves or that they are scared of not fitting in or etc. I believe that is exactly the case in The Salt Mines, these women probably think that they will not fit in with Americans because they did not fit in during their pasts. I wish there was a way that we could change that.

            The documentary ends when the salt mine is closed by the city thereby forcing everyone out.



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