David Castillo was an honors student in high school (1989–92), where he was befriended by a gay teacher who took a special interest in him. He recognized Castillo’s gayness, as well as his unique sensibilities. He introduced Castillo to Advocate magazine, where the teen read stores about LGBT life, politics, and art. It was transformative for this young and vulnerable adolescent to see this world of fully engaged gay people doing great things that inspired him.
Castillo graduated as valedictorian from Hialeah High School and went on to live for a time with his aunt in Madrid. He applied to Yale and was accepted. Once in residence, he received a welcome letter from the administration that began: “Dear person of color.” Today, one can’t imagine any institution sending such a letter underscoring his status as a token minority. Shocked but undaunted, he went on to earn degrees in history and art history at Yale, where his thesis focused on early issues of the Advocate and other gay publications. Castillo spent a lot of time at the American Decorative Arts area in Yale’s art museum and in curatorial departments. He later undertook independent studies at the Angelicum in Rome.
Cassandra Langer, a freelance writer based in New York City, is the author ofRomaine Brooks: A Life (Wisconsin).