Tata and her partner Blanca met over twenty years ago. In the gay community they were known as Ma and Pa. During those twenty plus years Tata was a loving step mom to Blanca’s three children, and a nurturing God mother to her God son Xavier. She was very proud and fond of her brother Oscar, who she loved dearly and spent a great amount of time with as her equal and motorcycle riding buddy.
Tata worked for the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) for twenty years where she drove a bus on several routes in Boystown. She adored her gay community. Since 1987 Tata has made an appearance in every Chicago Pride Parade. Her first parade was with two friends and as they rode on their Harleys the crowd labeled them “Dykes on Bikes.” Every year Tata would take responsibility to file the paperwork and cover the cost of the permit. She made it possible for everyone that she invited to the pride parade to ride, “just bring your bike”, she would say. In 2003, Debby (Tata and Blanca’s niece) told Tata that she wanted to buy a motorcycle and without hesitation Tata responded, “Do it. You have two months to learn how to stop and go, that’s all you need to make it through the Pride Parade.” Debby has been riding with Dykes on Bikes for eight years now.
Before the line up at the parade Tata would invite the riders to her house for a cook out, she would say “I have a pool and if you don’t have a bathing suit, I’ll lend you a pair of my shorts and a tee shirt – just come by.” She made it difficult to say no. After the ride she would call those who didn’t show up. Tata embraced everyone and was a great listener. She always had a welcoming smile on her face no matter what she was going through or how much pain she was enduring due to her cancer diagnosis.
In the summer of 2007, Tata told Debby she was not riding but would be at the parade to cheer on the Dykes on Bikes. Debby told her that this ride would be dedicated to her, all of the bikers would wear pink bandanas to support breast cancer, and Tata loved the idea. That day as we hung out in her backyard chatting she told Debby “I want you to ride every year no matter what, ask one of the girls to help you and take care of the fees and application, I’ll give you the contact information.”
I asked her how she felt in general that evening and she responded “I am tired.” I began to negotiate with her. “How about if you rest up for the next three weeks before Pride, do you think you would have the strength to hold up a bike and ride with us?” She replied, “I don’t know – maybe.”
On June 24, 2007, at our 11:30 line up, as the pink bandanas were being passed out to all of riders – there was something missing and our energy was not the same. All of a sudden we heard a loud noise. It was a motorcycle revving up but we could not make out who it was from a distance. As the bike approached the group we realized it was Tata with Blanca as her passenger. Tata had not smiled like that in a long time. She was so excited, everyone began to cry, it was the best ride we have ever had as a group.
Tata left us in 2008, that year Dykes on Bikes reached a total of fifty bikers – the largest ever. Her spirit is with us in every Pride Parade…the Dykes on Bikes will continue to ride in her memory indefinitely.
“We ride for Tata!”
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Debby Rijos was born and raised in Chi-Town. She grew up in the Ukrainian Village and Bucktown neighborhoods. The mind and the body are her passion; she has a background in Psychology as well as Fitness. When not cruising on her Harley in Boystown you can find Debby fulfilling her public duties at the Department of Public Health. Yes! She is 100% Boricua.