Cristina Ortiz Rodríguez, better known as La Veneno (“The Poison”), was a Spanish singer, actress, sex worker, and media personality who rose to fame in the 1990s as one of the first transgender women to be widely recognized in Spain. She was considered a pioneer and a symbol of the LGBT movement in the country, but her life was also marked by violence, abuse, and tragedy. She died on November 9, 2016, at the age of 52, after being found unconscious in her home with severe injuries. The cause of her death remains unclear and controversial, as there are conflicting reports and theories about what happened to her.
A Difficult Childhood and a Meteoric Rise to Fame
Cristina was born on March 19, 1964, in Adra, a conservative town in the province of Almería, Spain. She was the fourth of six siblings, and she suffered aggression and abuse from her family and the people in her hometown, who did not accept her sexual orientation. She was kicked out of her house at the age of 13, and moved with one of her sisters to San Pedro de Alcántara, where she worked as a farmer, a shop assistant, a hairdresser, and a model. In 1989, she won the contest for Míster Andalucía, a beauty pageant for men.
In 1991, she moved to Madrid, where she worked as a hospital chef. The same year, she appeared on the television dating show Vivan los novios, which she won. The prize was a trip to Bangkok, Thailand, where she attended a kathoey show and realized that she was transgender. She started her transition process in 1992, taking hormones and undergoing surgeries. After losing her job at the hospital, she became a sex worker in the Parque del Oeste in Madrid, where she was discovered in 1996 by a reporter for the late-night show Esta noche cruzamos el Mississippi, broadcast on Telecinco. The interview, in which she showed her outrageous humor and charisma, was a hit, and she was invited to become a regular contributor on the show, hosted by Pepe Navarro. Her popularity soared, and she became a national sensation, known for her spectacular appearance and profane jokes.
She used her fame to launch a music career, recording two singles, “Veneno Pa’ Tu piel” and “El Rap de La Veneno”, and performing at nightclubs and festivals. She also became a model, posing for magazines and calendars, and an actress, starring in both pornographic and mainstream films and TV shows. She was admired by many for her courage and authenticity, and she became an icon for the trans community and the LGBT movement in Spain.
A Downward Spiral and a Mysterious Death
However, Cristina’s life was not all glamour and success. She also faced many difficulties and dangers, such as drug addiction, depression, legal troubles, and violence. In 2003, she was accused by her then-boyfriend of setting fire to their apartment to collect the insurance money, and she was sentenced to three years in a men’s prison, where she suffered abuse and discrimination. She was released in 2006, but her career never recovered. She struggled to find work and money, and she became isolated and marginalized. She also had health problems, such as hepatitis C and HIV.
In 2016, she published her autobiography, ¡Digo! Ni puta ni santa. Las memorias de La Veneno, written with the help of journalist Valeria Vegas, who became her friend and confidante. The book was a success, and it sparked a renewed interest in her life and career. However, shortly after its release, Cristina was found unconscious in her home in Madrid, with bruises and wounds all over her body. She was taken to the hospital, where she died four days later, on November 9, 2016.
The cause of her death is still a mystery, as there are different versions and contradictions about what happened to her. According to the official autopsy, she died of multiple organ failure caused by a fall in her bathroom, possibly due to a drug overdose or a seizure. However, her family and friends suspect that she was the victim of a homicide, and they point to evidence of foul play, such as signs of a struggle, blood stains, and missing items from her apartment. They also claim that the police investigation was negligent and biased, and that they ignored or manipulated important clues and witnesses. They have demanded a reopening of the case and a new autopsy, but so far, their requests have been denied.
A Lasting Legacy and a Tribute Series
Despite her tragic and controversial death, Cristina’s legacy lives on, as she is remembered and celebrated by many people who admire her courage, her humor, and her contribution to the visibility and acceptance of the trans community in Spain. In 2020, a critically acclaimed series based on her life, titled Veneno, was produced by Atresmedia and released on HBO Max. The series, created by Javier Ambrossi and Javier Calvo, follows the friendship between Cristina and Valeria, and portrays the different stages of Cristina’s life, from her childhood to her death, using different actresses to play her. The series has been praised for its respectful and realistic depiction of Cristina’s story, as well as for its casting of trans actresses, some of whom are newcomers or former sex workers. The series has also sparked a debate about the rights and dignity of trans people in Spain, and has raised awareness about the violence and discrimination they face.
Cristina Ortiz Rodríguez, or La Veneno, was a complex and controversial figure, who lived a life full of highs and lows, joys and sorrows, fame and obscurity. She was a woman who fought for her identity and her happiness, and who left a mark on the history and culture of Spain. She was, as she liked to say, “neither a whore nor a saint, just a woman with a lot of venom”.