Prior to this interview, I only met Nestor Eduardo Estrada a couple of times. It just happened that I attended events benefiting AIDS Interfaith Network, which Nestor passionately supports. When we first met he made an impression of a lovely attractive young man, maybe a little shy at first, but definitely with a distinct charming personality about him. I am always drawn to people who exert positive energy; it makes me feel that these people really get what it means to live WELL. Nestor had that impact on me. I am glad that I had the opportunity to know his true story and his life journey by conducting this interview. It was just another time I was reminded that living WELL is not a gift we receive at birth, living well is a choice we make every day.
TM: Before we start I need to ask you to tell our readers a bit of your background – who you are and where you came from.
I was born in Guatemala. The circumstances of my childhood can be called very difficult, but not really tragic. My parents moved to the United States when I was nine and separated soon after. I was mostly raised by my mom, with whom I am incredibly close.
TM: So I guess for you Guatemala became just a distant childhood memory, right? For myself, I can’t say I remember much of anything when I was nine years old.
Actually, it is not at all the case with me. Major life events and experiences happened when I was in Guatemala. It became the place of healing and love. I met my future husband Cesar Aragon there and overcame drug dependency. I spent considerable amount of time there as an adult.
TM: It sounds both foreboding and romantic. What made you decide to return to your home country as an adult after growing up in the US?
It is a long story. Growing up gay, I always had the sense of being different, of not belonging. It is a tremendous burden to bear for a young mind. Seeking escape from those feelings, I ended up doing drugs, got addicted to crystal meth. Things went downhill from there. At some point I really thought I was dying. My skin was all covered in lesions. I thought it could be leprosy or something like that. I was sure my immune system was shutting down (Nestor smiles). It ended up being psoriasis and I was HIV negative, but still… It was a wake-up call. My mom saved me. She came and picked me up, kept me at home for the worst first few days and then sent me to Guatemala to heal.
TM: So that’s when you met the love of your life? Or was it not like that at first?
It was exactly like that! It was the most romantic thing that could happen! One time I was invited to a party to an amazing luxurious villa to spend a few days on an island. I met Cesar on the way there – he stepped out of the car and I knew it was love at first sight. I knew we were meant to be together! I even told him that. He wasn’t as sure as I was, but things did work out in the end. Now, twelve years later, we are finally here, legally married, living in a beautiful house – rooted and stable. I can’t say enough what this relationship means to me – my husband is my support, my inspiration and my grounding force.
TM: That’s great for both of you, but let’s gets back to you. You are known for your charitable efforts for several organizations, but specifically for AIN. How did it start, what made you get involved to begin with?
There are many aspects to this. I think the main influence on who I am was my mother. I was raised with the notion that helping people is important, that it makes us who we are. My personal story also moved me in this direction. For a long time I suffered depression as an adult, medicating myself with a handfuls of pills just to make it through the day. Then, one day I found out about body cleansing through juicing diet. It may sound unbelievable but after a seven day cleanse, it felt like the fog has lifted. I didn’t need pills anymore. It was an unbelievable sensation. I was so excited; I wanted to share this knowledge that proper natural food can actually heal you! I thought of a way to utilize organic foods to feed patients suffering immune system disorders, and started a non-profit organization to bring the idea to life. I worked really hard on it, but unfortunately it didn’t fully develop for several reasons. However, this experience brought me closer to the understanding of well-being. I researched food processing and preparation, and now I advocate organic and even home grown produce. I am proud to say that we have a full vegetable garden in our back yard both for our own needs and to share with the community.
TM: AIDS Interfaith Network, how did you get involved with them?
My connection was made through a sad personal experience. A friend of mine tested HIV positive. I was devastated, I wanted to do something, change something. Like so many times in the past when I was facing a difficult situation, I started doing research. I needed to know more. That’s how I first found and then got deeply involved with AIN and their initiatives to prevent the spread of HIV and to serve people living with HIV/AIDS and other vulnerable populations. Currently the network provides services to 2,000 men, women, youth and children who have HIV/AIDS, and 10,000 individuals at risk. This year Cesar and I served as co-chairs of the Blooming Ball Gala, designed to raise funds for AIN. I started working with the organization on a temporary, part time basis, and now I am consulting with them full-time, dedicating all my efforts to their cause.
TM: It is a big commitment on your part and a great cause to support, but I am afraid it would be quite depressing to be dealing with issues that face individuals living with HIV/AIDS. Is it so? And how do you cope with it?
One thing that helps me stay mentally positive and physically strong is spinning. Spinning for me is a life force. It really goes hand in hand with my notion of well-being. I am currently a spin instructor at Terlingo Cycle and hope to take this personal passion to the next level. Also, being involved with charity organizations does not have to be depressing. Earlier this year Cesar, our friend Denton Bricker and I started a blog 2gaybestiesdallas.com" target="_blank">2gaybestiesdallas.com. It is a lifestyle blog about non-profits, events, fashion, LGBT community, the arts, important issues and causes, and of course about us and our friendship. All of us are involved with non-profit organizations; we want to share our passion for life and helping others with the rest of the world. Check us out on our site, Facebook and Instagram.
TM: Your story is truly amazing. Turning your life around like that – from a drug addict to a successful entrepreneur, blogger and AIN consultant. What was the secret of this successful transformation?
The thing is – I love helping people. It is in me, it has always been in me. However, I think one must be truly well himself to be able to express his or her energy outward. I believe in healthy living, in healthy relationships. Mental and physical health comes from the way we treat our bodies. And when we are truly well and rooted in our lives, we can express ourselves by helping others overcome their set-backs. Every day Cesar and I start with a cup of coffee in our beautiful backyard surrounded by a garden, the fruit-trees we’ve planted, enjoying the company of our dogs. What can be better? That feeling is worth sharing with the rest of the world! Nestor and I concluded our interview with a warm friendly hug. Nestor is an amazing human being. He invited me to come and see his amazing garden and to personally meet his dogs and rabbits. I happily accepted. Maybe I’ll be able to see with my own eyes what “well-being” really looks like.