My name is Jovier Sanchez and I’m from New York, New York.
So I moved to Salem with my husband in 2015. We opened a candle store there and it was on the first floor of the… it’s kind of a walkthrough mall in Salem, Massachusetts. We were dead center, so we had really… the optics were great and everything looked good. We were very proud about being gay owned and operated. I’m also Puerto Rican, so it’s also a Latino-owned business.
So we put the rainbow flag sticker in the door and we had folks in the community that felt very comfortable coming in. Salem tends to attract a lot of non-binary trans folks, and they felt very comfortable coming in and we loved having them in, and they were some of our most loyal customers. That first year was so profitable and exciting and we were like, All right, maybe this is what’s going to take us through to retirement. I mean, we’ll see.
So 2016 comes along, we both proudly cast our vote for Hillary Clinton and sure enough, you know who wins. One of the consequences in 2016, people in town, especially the bigots in town, sort of felt emboldened. He had almost given them a voice to spew hatred, especially toward out, queer and Hispanic people in town.
One of the consequences in 2016, people in town, especially the bigots in town, sort of felt emboldened.
I want to say within a week and a half to two, and it was that dramatic, the drop-off for the business that we were initially getting was almost… like, it was night and day. We were going into the Christmas season and normally a lot of people would also come in and they would get Christmas candles that we would design and stuff like that. However, our business dropped off almost immediately after that.
My husband and I decided that it was probably best that we just closed the business. That was heartbreaking actually because we were so excited about doing this, so excited about leaving New York and trying to open up our own business and really make it happen there.
So he had gotten another job, still in the mall, at an escape room. While he was working there, the hours were, it’s the suburbs, so nine-ish, ten-ish, which is late. We were starting to get scared at that point because we were starting to get followed by people like vagrants and other people in town. They’d follow us and we would get “faggoted” in the street or right in the mall.
There was one time that was actually particularly scary because this guy waited outside. We called our friends to come and get us because we were really scared. They had to come into the business and walk outside with us just so that we could feel a measure of safety.
They were apologizing the whole time. They’re like, “We’re really sorry. It’s not like this.”
I was like, “Well, this is not the first time. This is not the first time that it’s been this scary.”
Normally, I used to feel fine holding my husband’s hand while we were walking up and down in Salem. I started getting scared. I didn’t want to hold my husband’s hand. Two and a half years into our stay there where we’re walking home, it’s not that late.
I just looked at him and I said, “Are you ready to go home? And I mean home as in New York City.”
And he was like, “God, I thought you never say it. I’ve been desperate to go back home.”
It was pretty worrisome because it’s a lot of money to move from state to state. It’s a huge ordeal. I remember calling my mom and saying, “Listen, mom, we’re coming back to New York.”
And she’s like, “Say less. Say less. What do you need? I’m there for you.”
His mom, the same thing. She’s like, “What do you need to get back? We’ll get you back. We want you to be safe.”
Then after that, friends of ours that were still in New York actually came up, helped us pack all of our stuff, packed our lives away and got us back to New York. That was five years ago and we’re so happy to be back.
None of us does this by ourselves. So just if you need help, please, please ask for help.
Do what you have to, and do your best to be happy. And if it means leaving where you are, then so be it.