The Salt Mines Documentary

The Salt Mines is a documentary that was created by Susana Aikin and Carlos Aparicio. In the late 1980s, the filmmakers followed a  group of homeless,transvestite prostitutes that had drug addictions, living in the “salt mines,” which is a storage area for salt that New York uses to melt snow and ice. The Salt Mines explores the lives of the Latino prostitutes whose names are. Sara, Gigi and Giovana.

Sara was formerly known as Ricardo, and she wants deeply to go back to Cuba because even though she was excited to come to America she soon realized that in America money is everything. Because she has no money she said she would rather go to jail in Cuba than be in America. However she does discuss how America is good because of all the freedom people get. She then goes on to talk about how she got arrested in Cuba because of the color of her hair. Even though America is a place of freedom, I believe people over look how much pain and difficulties that trans people go through in America, relating to the Muncie Hospital incident, not everyone is as free and people like to think. And it was probably even worse when this film was made in the late 80’s before the transgender movement began. Giovana is equally constrained but is way more optimistic about life than Sara. She claims that her drag identity helps her survive. And says something about being a transvestite until she dies. I feel sad for these people because they are so sad and desperate but it has a lot to do with their drug addiction.

When I was looking up info about when the film was made I read about another movie by Susana Aikin and Carlos Aparicio. The documentary is called The Transformation. It was  made five years after The Salt Mines and it describes “the resurrection” of Ricardo from the “ashes of Sara.” Apparently an evangelical group convinced Sara to become a “born-again” heterosexual. And tries to convince her she could become a happily married man. Aikin and Aparicio are the unobtrusive observers of these social cast-offs, who unblinkingly reveal the terrible limitations on their lives. The evangelicals catch them (the transvestite prostitutes) at their most desperate moments. Giovana understands and rejects the evangelical group by saying: “I’m not going to change because they bring me food.”



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