Introducing . . . the �ueen
It is 1998 and I find myself on a crowded airplane in San Antonio del Tá-
chira, on the border between Colombia and Venezuela. Through a compli-
cated series of events that involves a canceled bus trip and a cousin with-
out the proper papers, I’m flying through the Juan Vicente Gómez Inter-
national Airport to visit family living on Isla Margarita, a tourist resort in
the Venezuelan Caribbean. It is my firm belief that as a queer child of a
diasporic Colombian family with branches in the United States, Colom-
bia, and Venezuela, I am uniquely positioned to witness the spectacle that
unfolds before me.
A new flight crew comes aboard in San Antonio. A young woman, tall,
gaunt, and arduously stylized, takes command of the cabin. Her close-
fitting polyester uniform is crisp and gleaming, hat cocked precariously
atop a mound of hair immaculately pulled back into a moño, with two pre-
cise spit curls gelled down along her mandible, tapering off into whisper-
thin points. Her eyebrows are cleanly plucked and delineated in black pen-
cil, a bemused arch against the moderately applied foundation the color
of café con leche that coats the skin of her face. Her lips, dripping with a
mocha- tinged red, pout as she proceeds to give a performance of the air-
line safety procedures such as I have never seen before.
Every gesture is studied and designed, it seems, to cast an aura of glam-
our over the rows of weary travelers. And yet our flight attendant seems
not the least bit interested in her charges’ reactions. She makes no eye con-
tact, staring intently at the exit signs at the rear of the plane as the baubles
on her wrist jangle with the motion of the instructions. It seems that the
aisle of the airplane, in her mind, has become a runway.
As our plane sits on the San Antonio airstrip, the flight attendant seems
to be referencing the runway walk and poise of the beauty queens who
have been a national obsession in Venezuela. From my place among the
travelers, I watch the flight attendant and marvel at her behavior, a form
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