Back in late spring 2010, I spent some time reporting on the gay Latino community. Two men emerged as symbols for that community's future. Now, one of them is in jail awaiting trial on prostitution-related charges.
While Juan Lopez had worked hard for years to both encourage a gay Latino night scene in Salt Lake City and also, through his work on HIV prevention, promote safe-sex practices, Manuel Arano had to some degree emerged in the late 2000s as a counterpoint to Lopez. Where Lopez had once run a late-night gay Latino night at the Trapdoor, by 2010 it was Arano who was running a successful gay Latino dance night on Sundays at Karamba in Sugar House.
You can read about Lopez and Arano here.
By then, Lopez had faded from the gay night life, and Arano, who according to a probable cause statement is undocumented, began moving his weekend gay Latino night from one club to another—the Rail Event Center and Club Sound both saw him make debuts there—taking his dwindling entourage and nightclub audience with him. Dwindling, because, says Lopez, many of the familiar faces from the gay Latino nightlife have left the state, if not the country, whether deported or because of disenchantment with life in the Beehive State.
Nevertheless, a March 2012 piece on the Q Salt Lake website noted that Arano was starting a "semi-Latin night" on Saturdays at a new club called The Mixx. "After being involved with Latin nights at Trapp, Club Edge and Club Karamba, Arano is a veteran club producer and knows how to attract crowds," Seth Bracken wrote.
During my reporting, it became evident that Arano had burned many bridges within the community. Transgender Latinos who danced or were featured in beauty pageants at his gay Latino nights did not receive payments and were angry at what was apparently an escalating pattern of broken promises.
Charismatic, good-looking and, by his own admission on his Facebook page, a lover of money, Arano pursued modeling, acting, community causes and seemed to have many acquaintances among the leading faces of Utah's Latino community.
He moved to Seattle in the fall with his partner, but distance, it seems, could not stop allegations surrounding his immediate past from catching up with him. He was arrested in Seattle and extradited to Utah in early January and faces felony identity-fraud and forgery charges dating from an alleged offense in March 2006, along with charges alleging a pattern of unlawful activity and exploiting a prostitute.
According to the information filed in 3rd District Court by the Attorney General's Office, between July and November of 2012, Arano and a co-defendant, Jason Batista, are alleged to have been involved in running a whorehouse at 3090 E. 3300 South, under the guise of a massage parlor, called "Happy and Relaxing Reiki."
In late November, members of Utah's Strike Force raided the establishment. Among those arrested were Arano's younger brother, Luis Daniel.
A preliminary hearing is set for April 1 and 3 before Judge Katie Bernards-Goodman.