Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Olga Tañon comes out against homophobia

Spend a night at any of the gay bars in Jackson Heights, Queens, and you will probably hear one of her songs. For more than a decade, Olga Tañon has been the queen of Merengue and her songs, full of women who leave philandering lovers, women who strike back at lying men, and women who make it on their own despite the struggles, struck a nerve among some of the gay Latino immigrants that made Queens their home. Gay men probably identified with the telenovela-type of set ups in the lyrics and the idea of a strong woman overcoming bad relationships in her life. Or the idea that anyone could overcome hardship. Oh, and it helped that the songs were incredibly catchy and were ready-made for the dance floor. You haven't seen two gay men truly dance merengue unless you have seen them dancing to "Mentiroso" (below) or "Que se Valla".

Not that she only sings merengue and salsa, she has also explored Tex-Mex music in an album and recorded a rather mawkish and cringe-inducing Spanish-language version of the hymn of the United States last year called "Nuestro Himno" in support of undocumented immigrants (she was joined by with other recording stars including Wyclef Jean, Don Omar, Gloria Trevi, Ivy Queen and Pitbull).

Anyway, here is the thing: Recently I wrote about the murder of Jorge Steven López Mercado in Puerto Rico and the rallies that the brutal killing inspired in the United States and Puerto Rico. I also noted that two of Puerto Rico's most beloved stars, Calle 13 lead singer René Pérez and former Miss Universe Denise Quiñones, not only showed up at the San Juan rally but also publicly condemned the murder in a video captured by my friend Pedro Julio Serrano. René, as a symbol of his solidarity for the gay community, later went on to use his Twitter account to repeat the words he said on video: "I am 'homo' because I am 'Homo-sapiens', I'm 'sexual' because I am a sexual human being. Hence I am 'homo-sexual.'"

I personally thought it was a watershed moment when it comes to the Latino community and LGBT issues. Usually, when Latino super-stars come out in support of our rights it's either because it's late in their career and they want to market themselves to the gays that love them (see Gloria Trevi and Lucía Méndez) or because they are about to be outed (see Christian Chavez). But René and Denise's statement seemed incredibly heartfelt and uncensored in ways that a star's public relations handlers might not necessarily allow (in Denise's case, she is the exception to the rule and has been there for us before). But the remarks came just before the thanksgiving break and didn't necessarily get much traction.

Now comes Olga Tañon. In an article posted on Monday on Primera Hora, she unequivocally steps up against homophobia as yet one more Puerto Rican music superstar stands with us.

In the article, the singer repudiates the indifference shown by the island's political and religious leaders have shown towards the crime. She says it makes her feel ashamed and incredibly bothered by those who use excuses not to do a thing about the crime:
[it's] much rougher because many times it can't be seen; the injustice committed daily against gays, bisexuals, lesbians and transgenders in Puerto Rico, Latin America and almost the entire world, in denying them the same rights as the rest of the community and singling them out as if they were different.
She applauds René and Denise and says:
As artists, it is our responsibility to carry the correct message, a message of unity, of tolerance, of acceptance, of respect towards a way of being [...] To use the name of God to separate someone and treat them differently is a very ugly thing. I have fans who have told me that they do not want to go on living because of rejection from their homophobic parents and that is something we have to act upon; that is something that should make all of us hurt and should make us react [...] They have the right to be who they feel to be and not as the community wants them to be [...] Even though, at the end, common sense is enough for you to repudiate rejection... Look, to be gay is nothing wrong. Sexual orientation, in itself, is nothing wrong; it cannot be used as a reason to punish or to reject. Everyone's conduct is another 20 pesos and has nothing to do with orientation. Why don't people understand that?
Just like René, Olga means what she says. In a weekly radio show in which she answers questions from fans, she will devote the whole hour TOMORROW NIGHT to the issue. She is promoting the hour on her official website. Tune in to Olga Tañon or to IsMiO on Wed., Dec. at 8PM EST to hear Olga discuss homophobia, LGBT rights, and justice for Jorge Steven López Mercado.

1 comment:

Eduardo Guize said...

Olga te queremos!!!