SAN JUAN – Thousands of people turned out on Sunday for the annual Gay Pride March in San Juan, where special remembrance was paid to the victims of the Orlando nightclub massacre, almost half of whom were of Puerto Rican heritage.
“I lost two friends, two brothers, Martin (Benitez Torres) and Jimmy de Jesus (Velazquez),” Boriquen Memorial funeral home spokesperson Serbella Tejeda said after the establishment had offered its services gratis to the families of the 23 Puerto Ricans who died in the shooting at the Pulse nightclub.
Tejeda said that important advances have been made on homosexual rights and gender questions in Puerto Rico in recent years, but “there are always groups who don’t understand our preferences.”
The spokesperson added that this event had helped “many ... decide to step forward and end the fear,” adding that “we have to be ourselves if we want to move forward as a society.”
Activist Pedro Julio Serrano, possibly the best-known face in Puerto Rico’s gay community and the spokesman for Puerto Rico Para Tod@s, said he was “tremendously saddened” by the recently reported story of the Puerto Rican father who, “out of shame, didn’t want to claim his son’s body” after the massacre.
“Today we’re marching for the 23 Puerto Rican victims (in) Orlando and for all the rest, for the survivors, for their families, for my community ... because our hearts are shattered,” said Serrano.
The marchers moved along Avenida Ashford until they arrived at Third Millennium Park, where a stage had been set up for musical performances at this year’s 26th edition of the Gay Pride event.