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Rosita Hidalgo: Transgender Murder on South Beach

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Hector Sarna isn't surprised that his friend Rosita Hidalgo was killed. As a transgender woman who was a sex worker, she was putting herself at risk. He warned her that one of the men she brought home would hurt her, or worse. He remembers a day almost a year ago when a man client beat Rosita after finding out she was once a man. Hector told her to be more careful.

But Hector didn't expect her to be gagged and stabbed and slashed in her apartment. That's how he found her March 15. No one had heard from Rosita in a few days, and one of her friends became worried. So Hector called the Miami Beach police, who went to Rosita's apartment at 545 Michigan Ave. Hector was with them. Officers opened the door just enough to see the blood pooling on the floor.

In the four months since Rosita's death, Hector has prayed that the police or someone else would tell him why Rosita was killed. But he has received no answers -- no suspects nor arrests. The MBPD issued a press release in April, stating that all they knew about the murder was that Rosita was a transvestite and a prostitute who sold herself on the street. Neither of those descriptions is correct.

"They're not doing all they can," Hector says. "Four months, and still to this moment, nothing." Little is known about the case. Rosita came to the United States from Cuba as Rene Hidalgo in 1980 on the Mariel boatlift.

She left her homeland to avoid persecution over being gay, says Jorge Ortega, a Miami Beach hairdresser who knew Rosita on the island. According to Hector, Rosita transitioned to a woman soon after arriving. She lived on South Beach and owned
two Chihuahuas. She was a small-time escort, bringing men to her apartment for sex and to smoke pot. She had no family here, and the money she made she sent home to Cuba to support her mother. But even those details are scant and difficult
to confirm. Despite 30 years in Miami, Rosita disappeared from the city in the blink of an eye.

Violence against transgenders has been on a steady rise, activists say. But the motives for the murder, be it a hate crime or a random act of violence, are unknown, because MBPD won't comment about the ongoing investigation.

So Hector waits. He took in Rosita's Chihuahuas, organized a candlelight vigil after her death, tried to rally media coverage, and pressed the police to release more details. "She didn't deserve to die like this," he says.

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