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    Remembering Eleanor

    By Monica Palacios–

    It is with profound sadness that I announce the passing of my beautiful, dynamic, hilarious, chingona older sister Eleanor Cruz Palacios. She gracefully flew into the sky on July 19, 2023. Eleanor was a proud San Franciscan lesbian resident for over 30 years. Because she was a queer activist and a concerned citizen, Eleanor knew a ton of people, so I referred to her as the Unofficial Mayor of San Francisco.

    Eleanor is the reason I have a queer comedy career—I stole all her material. Since we were both lesbians, I coined us the “Double Dyke Familia.” My family was surprised at our Sapphic sister’s phenomenon, and our mother always asked: “Is this contagious? Should I be worried?”

    Eleanor escorted me to my first gay bar in San Jose; it was called DESPERADOS! That is so gay! On this particular night way back in 1978, she pulled me aside before we got to the entrance and told me, “If anyone asks you to dance, tell them, no thank you.” She was teaching me to be polite to gay people because she had no idea I was a budding dykeling.

    She was 10 years older than me so we started hanging out after I graduated from high school, and it was during this time we discovered that we were extremely funny together. We laughed a lot—too much. Many times we would have to leave a restaurant in the middle of a meal because of our crazy loud cackles that would lead to choking moments.

    We ended up living together in Oakland in the early 1980s. I was a San Francisco State student and starting my lesbian comedian career and Eleanor was a full-fledged lesbian working for the company Proctor and Gamble. Eleanor was extremely supportive of me getting on stage and talking about my queer Chicana life as I performed at the first gay comedy club in the nation: The Valencia Rose Cabaret on Valencia Street in San Francisco. I always talked about us being lesbian sisters and the crowds loved it. I often introduced her from the stage and she would stand and take a quick bow. By 1983, Proctor and Gamble moved Eleanor to New York, which totally bummed me out but she would come back to the Bay Area to visit for the holidays.

    Eleanor and Sisters

    After 8 years of trying to live in the crazy cold weather of the East Coast, Eleanor returned to her beloved California and found a cool pad in San Francisco near the intersection of Church and Market behind the huge grocery store Safeway. Eleanor became very involved in the LGBTQ community as an activist. In the early 2000s, Eleanor was a volunteer at the new San Francisco LGBT Center on Market Street and founded, along with friends, the Latino Forum, a space for Latinx queer and trans people.

    In 2005, Eleanor started working with the National Center for Lesbian Rights, as their Events Manager. Eleanor’s biggest highlight working with NCLR was on May 15, 2008, when the California Supreme Court ruled: “Lesbian and gay couples have the same constitutional right to marry as heterosexual couples.” Eleanor immediately called me announcing this declaration because NCLR was the lead counsel for this ruling.

    Two weeks after this historical same sex marriage victory, Eleanor and I were at the annual fundraiser dinner for NCLR in San Francisco with over 1,000 lesbians, and allies, experiencing Queer Love Pride Power—to the max! I was massively proud of Eleanor for being connected to NCLR and doing her own activism in the gayest city in the world.

    Memorial Table
    Photo Courtesy of Olga Talamante / Facebook

    After NCLR, Eleanor went on to work for the Chicana Latina Foundation, Olivia Travel, Openhouse, and was on the Board of Directors of Puente. She also served on the Board of Directors for Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice, and in 2017, received the Acey Social Justice Feminist Award from Astraea. Eleanor received posthumously the Community Philanthropist Award from the Chicana Latina Foundation, November 3, 2023.

    Eleanor is survived by myself, Monica Palacios; our sisters Marty Ramirez and Clara Bueno; and our brother Art Palacios. Our younger brother, Greg Palacios, recently passed on June 20, 2023. Eleanor leaves 14 nieces and nephews and a red wagon full of adorable great nieces and nephews.

    My family will host a memorial for Eleanor: Remembering Eleanor, on Sunday December 10, 2023, from 2–6 pm at the Brava Theater Center, 2781 24th Sreet at York in San Francisco. Please RSVP:

    Eleanor was a force of nature, the life of the party, an amazing cook, and could make an elegant cocktail; she was a battleaxe, a badass, my older sister, my best friend. Eleanor is no longer here on this planet but her powerful spirit is all around us!

    Monica Palacios is a Los Angeles-based Chicana lesbian playwright and solo performer. And it’s totally true; the reason Monica has a queer comedy career is because she stole all of her sister Eleanor’s material. More info and guacamole recipes:

    In Memoriam
    Published on November 16, 2023