Saturday, June 16, 2007

Latino LGBT pride in NYC: 1997

The Spanish language newspaper El Diario La Prensa is publishing an LGBT pride supplement this year and I've been providing information to a few reporters on issues related to the history of Latino LGBT organizing in the city, challenges faced by bi-national same-sex couples and Latinos involved in the push for same-sex marriage in New York.

I have also been looking through images that I have that might help to illustrate the vibrancy of Latino LGBT life in New York over the last decade and have submitted some although I'm not sure they will be published.

In the next few posts I will share some of them and my recollections on where and when they were taken.
copyrighted photo - to post, please ask for permission:

Let's start with ACT UP and members of the Latino Caucus:
The back of the photo I scanned says April of 1997 so I'm not exactly sure on what exact day it was taken or what the protest was about (obviously access to treatments was a theme but considering the size of the crowd it must have been a reaction to something).

I do remember that I was marching with members of ACT-UP's Latino Caucus including Hector Seda, Carlos Maldonado, Popo and a few other people who I'd befriended and had shown me the ropes of activism. Not sure if Sam Larson or Jesus Aguais were there on that day. I was dating a great Peruvian guy, Fernando Mariscal, who was a photo enthusiast and must still have quite a collection of historic photos from those days.

I think by the time I met them, the caucus had folded but they still continued to participate in marches and hang out socially. I was in awe of their activism and wanted to grow up and be just like them (hehe).

While ACT UP is not a gay rights organization, the historical importance to Latino LGBT advocacy in New York is that some of the members of the ACT UP Latino Caucus were influential in launching a couple of gay Latino organizations. Jesus Aguais, who now directs Aid for AIDS, founded the now-defunct Venezuelan Gay and Lesbian Association (VGLA) which led also to the creation of the Colombian Lesbian and Gay Association (COLEGA) - Jesus was dating a Colombian guy and suggested that he bring some people together to launch a Colombian organization, which he did. I ended up being co-chair of COLEGA a couple of years later.

Gonzalo Aburto, who would later become editor of the Spanish-language version of POZ Magazine, also was among a few guys who launched HoMoVISIONES, another gay Latino organization that was unique in that it was not a social or a community service organization but focused on creating audiovisual material covering issues related to the Latino LGBT community. They had an incredible community access cable news show which, among other things, captured the only video I remember seeing of a NYPD officer mounted on a horse trampling through some activists at the massive Matthew Sheppard rally that took place in Manhattan on October 13 of 1998 (the police had penned in demostrators on side streets between avenues and were arresting people en masse). Gonzalo now produces the only 'Rock in Spanish' radio show in New York (La Nueva Alternativa) and writes for... El Diario La Prensa.

At the time there were already a number of Latino gay organizations, including Las Buenas Amigas and Latino Gay Men of New York (currently the longest existing surviving Latino gay organizations in the city) and Latinas y Latinos de Ambiente de Nueva York (LLANY) which still gets listed on gay directories even though I believe it's been more than a decade since it folded. These, in turn, were born out of earlier Latino LGBT organizing in the city and organizations such as HUGGL (sp?) which was gone by the time I moved to New York and, I believe, was founded as a direct result of the incredible rise of power of the Puerto Rican communities in New York in the 1980's and 1990's. I used to know some of this by heart but, unfortunately, time erases some memories and details.

There are still some people out there who have written about that part of Latino LGBT organizing history in New York, most notably Luis Aponte-Pares.

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