An quick update on the brutal murder of 19 year old Jorge Steven López Mercado in Puerto Rico:
After the multiple vigils and rallies in the United States over the weekend demanding that the murder of the young gay man be investigated as a hate crime, and a meeting Tuesday with the Puerto Rican branch of the American Civil Liberties Union, authorities in the island have announced that, for the first time ever in Puerto Rico, a little known 2002 statute will be used to go ahead and investigate the murder as a hate crime.
Myriam Mercado and Jorge López, parents of Jorge Steven, participated in a vigil that took place yesterday in San Juan, along with Jorge Steven's brother, Jorge Gabriel. Ms. Mercado, who has moved the world by releasing a statement professing her love for her gay son and putting out a videotaped message of thanks to all who have expressed their support throughout the world, tearfully addressed the crowd last night once again to express thanks. "You have given us hope at our most difficult moment as a family," she said. 9 year-old Jorge Gabriel led the crowd in chanting "Long-live Steven".
Political leaders were conspicuous in their absence. Two weeks after the horrible crime and the worldwide outrage it has elicited and there is still no word whatsoever from Puerto Rican Governor Luis Fortuño, a conservative darling who is being mentioned as a potential 2012 Republican U.S. presidential candidate.
Amazingly, two well-known and extremely well-loved Puerto Rican showbiz darlings did make an appearance. René Pérez, lead singer for the most successful reggaeton band in the world, Calle 13, and Denise Quiñones, Miss Universe 2001, marched in last night's vigil in support of Jorge Steven's family. After the vigil, they stopped to give my friend Pedro Julio Serrano the following declarations on video:
René: OK, we just left the vigil for Jorge Steven, eh, so, and against hate crimes. Let's hope that the government begins to work and speaks about... ah, speaks about this, which is an evil - which takes place world-wide - but, here, what happened was atrocious. The crime was vicious... vicious... viciously awful, and strong and unjust, and it's also unjust that it hasn't even been spoken about. Speaking of stupid things, they honor Paris Hilton in the Senate, and they cannot speak about this?A week ago or so, on Tweeter, I sent a message out to René hoping he'd give me a statement repudiating the murder. He quickly responded and said "it's among the worst crimes that Puerto Rico has lived through".
Denise: It's so important that all of us give an example, of ourselves, all of society, the politicians, our leaders, they should begin to give an example to break this... this cycle of hate, of inequality, of homophobia, which is... of intolerance... which is completely destroying our unity as Puerto Ricans, as, as human beings, and our dignity. So, I am here as well, with René and with everyone, in solidarity with Steven's family also, next to Steven, and we send him kisses... eh... and I believe... he must be happy to see all the unity this has created and all the conciousness this has created and... this is his symbol [laughs] a very big kiss to all his family and to Jorge Steven..
René: I am "Homo" because I'm "Homo-sapiens", I am "sexual", hence I am 'Homo-sexual" as well.
That was a surprise since in May, when I was sent a statement on René's commitment to the fight against AIDS in the Latino community, I tried to press his handlers for something that directly addressed HIV transmission risks in the gay community and I was told that such a statement might be going too far.
So tonight, knowing how influential René is among Latino youth, I was frankly shocked and moved by his comments. More than that, at the end of the video, René seems to ad-lib a play on words basically saying everyone is equal, hence everyone is gay. He's not admitting he is gay, but he is calling on everyone to join the protest. He could have left it at that; at a video that might have been seen by a few people. But, later, using his Tweeter account (@Calle13Oficial), he polished the statement a little more: "I am 'homo' because I am 'Homo-sapiens', I'm 'sexual' because I am a sexual human being. Hence I am 'homo-sexual.'"
Simply, wow! Here is the top-selling reaggaton artist in the world publicly saying that the struggle of the LGBT community is the struggle of us all. Just powerful, powerful stuff. As Denise says in the video, Jorge Steven "must be happy to see all the unity this has created and all the consciousness this has created."
Sweetly, with a tinge of sadness for a life lost, the former couple, now close friends, stop for a moment and give the same signal that Jorge Steven used to give to everyone he loved as a way to remember him.
- Una vigila de amor que vence al odio (Pedro Julio Serrano)
- Thousands in Puerto Rico Hold Vigil for Slain Gay Teen, Calle 13's René Pérez Speaks Out (Rod 2.0)