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Diego Viñales (born Alfredo Diego Viñales) is an Argentinian student who was swept up in a police raid on the Snake Pit gay bar in New York's Greenwich Village in March 1970. The raid at the Stonewall Inn that had sparked rioting and gay activism had occurred the previous summer, but such raids were still common. Taken to the police station, Viñales, who was on an expired student visa and fearful of deportation, tried to escape by jumping out a second floor window. He landed on a spiked fence. Viñales suffered grave injuries, but survived and was arrested. Protest marches in response to the day's events were led by gay activist groups formed in the wake of Stonewall, and helped sparked greater community awareness and interest in the upcoming Christopher Street Liberation Day events scheduled for 28 June to commemorate the first anniversary of the Stonewall riots.
Viñales was born Alfredo Diego Viñales in Buenos Aires in 1946 or 1947.[a] Named after his father who deserted the family when the boy was ten, Diego chose to use his middle name instead. Growing up in one of the villa miseria shanty towns around Buenos Aires, Diego found a tattered travel book about New York City in a landfill, and carried it with him everywhere. It fueled his fantasies and desire to escape the misery around him.:64
Diego had no schooling after age 12. He was a gentle boy, and grew into a handsome, even beautiful young man, and was teased over his long eyelashes and pouty lips. Carrying water back to his mother as an adolescent, he attracted glowing attention from women of the village. By 16, he stood 1.8 metres (5 ft 11 in) tall, and topped with his dark curls, he resembled an Adonis. Diego was apolitical and areligious. More than religion, Diego believed his life would be transformed in New York. He had heard about certain boys, the puta-timadores[b] who hustled foreigners for money in exchange for their company, and there were rumors of a few who managed to parlay that into a ticket out of the country and were living in luxury in foreign capitals. Diego decided to go down to the Teatro Colón, where the hustler boys hung out looking for their marks, and try his luck.:64–65
In August 1967 Diego bumped into a handsome and to his eyes glamorous older man near the Teatro who asked if he liked Opera, and invited him for coffee speaking in American-accented Spanish, which is something Diego had never heard before. Neither was being invited for coffee within his social skills, and he was uncertain how to respond, but he knew it was about more than coffee and Opera. At a café, Jim told Diego to order "anything", but the American's Spanish wasn't quite good enough, and it came out order "everything" which Diego proceeded to do. When the waiter tried to confirm the order with Jim, he was too besotted with Diego to pay attention, and just confirmed the order, ending up with a tableful of desserts and every drink in the house.:65–66
Within a few weeks, Jim had arranged a student visa for Diego with the assistance of his Ivy college alma mater, and were soon living in Jim's apartment in the West Village. Diego had every intention to work out his student situation and deal with his initial visa, but the seduction of being in New York City, which far outpaced what his guide book and imagination could convey, led him to postpone it, and eventually the visa expired at the turn of the new year.:66[c]
In March, Jim left on one of his business trips, and Diego decided to meet up with some buddies for a drink at the Snake Pit.[d] Although a lot of time had elapsed since patrons fought back at the Stonewall Inn after the raid there, New York Police continued to raid gay bars, and this time it was the Snake Pit's turn. Police rounded up everyone and took them to the station. Diego was more panicked about his expired visa situation than he was about being targeted as gay, because he might be deported and never see Jim again. so when they were all lined up at the station in a second-floor hallway, until sunrise. Diego spied a window with a flimsy screen, and decided to make a break for it. He hadn't counted on the fence below.:66–67
The Snake Pit raidEdit
The police raid at the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich village had taken place nine months earlier, on June 28, 1969. Although the bar patrons who fought back and the many who rioted and protested in the days following was something new, actions by the New York Police Department against gay bars did not stop with Stonewall, and in fact continued on for months and years afterward. So when a police raid on the Snake Pit was conducted the following March, this was nothing unusual.
Raid and arrestEdit
In the pre-dawn hours of 8 March 1970, New York City Police raided the Snake Pit at 213 West 10th Street in Greenwich Village. Police said that the Snake Pit had been operating illegally after hours. One hundred sixty-seven people were taken into custody in the raid.
During the arrest, Viñales was one of the patrons held the longest inside, before being transferred to a police wagon. A friend noticed he was extremely frightened. Police at the bar were verbally abusive to employees asking about their rights.
Police station and attempted escapeEdit
There was a chaotic situation at the Charles Street station, and police hurled abusive epithets at those under arrest. Police explained that ID would not be checked, and those present would not have to post bail, but Viñales didn't hear or didn't understand. Fearful of deportation for being a homosexual, he suddenly ran up a flight of stairs, and attempted to jump out a second floor window to the roof of an adjoining building, but missed, and landed on a spiked fence instead, provoking grave piercing injury by six spikes.
With the seriousness of the injury, the police could not simply remove him from the fence. Instead, the fire department was called, and a section of fence was cut out, Viñales was taken to St. Vincent's Hospital in critical condition, still attached to the fence. Surgeons operated on him, with fire department personnel asked to scrub in and assist.
By that evening, 200 people had gathered in Sheridan Square to demonstrate against police repressions of gays in Greenwich Village. Made up of members of the Gay Activists Alliance, a splinter group of the Gay Liberation Front, and of feminist organizations, they protested the arrest of the bar patrons. They headed towards the hospital, where they conducted a "death vigil". By late evening, the protesters had left the hospital area and were marching peaceably through the West Village.
The intense interest by news media in New York City on the Snake Pit raid and Viñales' injuries was the most of any event relating to homosexual issues since the raid on the Stonewall Inn, and was a consequence of the increased activism of the gay community in New York following Stonewall.:242 The Daily News, a tabloid and New York's top-selling daily newspaper, published a front-page photo the next day of Viñales with the caption "Spiked on Iron Fence".
The gay community had already seen a surge of organizing activity following the events at the Stonewall Inn the previous summer. The protest march following the Snake Pit raid played a role in galvanizing interest even further among the community in time for the upcoming Christopher Street Liberation Day events already planned for 28 June. This event, scheduled to commemorate the first anniversary of the Stonewall riots was the first Pride march celebration in the United States.
There were political repercussions as well. Democratic Congressman Ed Koch, the future mayor of New York City, accused New York City Police Commissioner Howard R. Leary of approving raids and arrests against the gay community. Leary was reassigned to Flatbush.
- According to an interview with author David Carter, who wrote about the Snake Pit raid in "Stonewall: The Riots That Sparked the Gay Revolution", Viñales was 23 at the time of the raid, which would put his birthday between March 10, 1946 and March 9, 1947.
- Puta-timadores – literally, "swindler-whores"; i.e., male hustlers.
- According to New Dawn for the New Left, Viñales feared deportation "because American visas prohibited homosexuality", but according to most other sources, it was because of his expired student visa.:239
- The source says that Jim left on business on 8 March and that Diego went to the Snake Pit the following Saturday and was arrested, but this cannot be, because 8 March 1970 was a Sunday, and the following Saturday would be the 14th, but the raid occurred early on the 9th—a Monday.
- Cain, Paul D. (July 1, 2004). "David Carter: Historian of The Stonewall Riots". Gay Today. Retrieved October 30, 2017.
- Carter, David (25 May 2010). Stonewall: The Riots That Sparked the Gay Revolution. New York: St. Martin's Press. pp. 239–240. ISBN 978-1-4299-3939-3. OCLC 1003755806. Retrieved 28 October 2017.
- Eubanks, Tom (10 March 2017). "Villa Miseria (1970)". Ghosts of St. Vincent's. BookBaby. pp. 64–68. ISBN 978-1-4835-9612-9. OCLC 985619647. Retrieved 29 October 2017.
- Slonecker, Blake (5 December 2012). A New Dawn for the New Left: Liberation News Service, Montague Farm, and the Long Sixties. Palgrave Macmillan US. p. 114. ISBN 978-1-137-28083-1. OCLC 824599687. Retrieved 29 October 2017.
- Kohler, Will (March 8, 2017). "March 8, 1970: After Stonewall, Raids Continue – The Forgotten NYC Snake Pit Bar Raid. 167 Arrested". Back2Stonewall. Retrieved 28 October 2017.
- "Homosexuals Hold Protest in 'Village' After Raid Nets 167". NY Times. March 9, 1970. p. 29. Retrieved October 28, 2017.
- "Alfredo Diego Vinales, Sixth Precinct Police Station, New York City, March 8, 1970". LGBT History Archive. 2016-03-08.
- Chan, Sewell (June 8, 2009). "Revisiting 1969 and the Start of Gay Liberation". NY Times. Retrieved October 29, 2017.
- "Spiked on Iron Fence, New York Daily News, March 9, 1970". LGBT History Archive. 2016-06-22. Retrieved October 29, 2017.
- Bell, Arthur Irving (1971). Dancing the gay lib blues: a year in the homosexual liberation movement. New York: Simon and Schuster. pp. 40–41. OCLC 190215. Retrieved 29 October 2017.
- Duberman, Martin (28 May 2013). Stonewall. New York: Open Road Media. p. 362. ISBN 978-1-4804-2384-8. OCLC 846679981. Retrieved 29 October 2017.
- Jay, Karla; Young, Allen (May 1992). Out of the Closets: Voices of Gay Liberation. New York: NYU Press. p. 12. ISBN 978-0-8147-4183-2. OCLC 861471497. Retrieved 29 October 2017.