(CNN)It was the popular singer Cesaria Evora who first introduced journalist Marc Serena to Cape Verde's most famous transgender activist: Tchinda Andrade.
Tchinda Andrade: Cape Verde's transgender hero
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The Sao Vincente native came out as transgender in a local newspaper article in 1998, and has since played the role of mother hen to the country's trans community.
"She was the first to open the way for others to express themselves," says Serena. "Tchinda is a natural leader." So influential has she been that the trans community in Cape Verde are referred to as "tchindas" by locals.
The love she inspires is evident in a documentary co-directed by Serena and Pablo Garcia Perez de Lara last year called "Tchindas," which follows Andrade's preparations for one of the biggest annual events on the Cape Verde calendar: carnival.
The film has been sweeping up on the festival circuit. It won the Grand Jury Award at Outfest, was nominated for an Africa Movie Academy Award and screened at the New York African Film Festival earlier this year. Moreover, it's made a star of its protagonist.
Serena, meanwhile, has been heartened by how welcoming Sao Vicente (a small, 88-sqaure mile island that makes up part of Cape Varde) is