At the end of June 1969, New York City was rocked by demonstrations never seen before on its streets. For several days dozens of people from the LGBT + community clashed with the police because they were tired of the raids in the few spaces designated for them.
At that time, being gay in the United States meant discrimination, same-sex relationships were illegal, meeting between gays was considered immoral and seen as a call to disorder, and homosexuality was perceived as a disease. Therefore, there were few places in the LGBT community, including the Stonewall Inn bar located in Manhattan. That's where the gay rights protests began, which then spread across the United States and then around the world to create Gay Pride Month.
In Stonewall protests there was a large participation of the Latino community that was doubly discriminated against, first because of its origin and then because of its sexual preferences. Sylvia Rivera, a trans woman of Venezuelan and Puerto Rican origin, was one of the most active Latina leaders during the Stonewall protests. She is considered the Latin pioneer in the fight for the rights of the LBGT+ community in the United States.
For years she supported causes among the most vulnerable in that community, such as migrants and homeless. In the following decades she became one of the most recognized activists among the gay and migrant community and she participated in various organizations that fought for the full recognition of gay rights, until she died in 2002.
Months after the Stonewall protests, Diego Viñales, a young Argentine student, was arrested at the Snake Pit gay bar in New York just for being inside the bar. At the police station, he tried to escape and jumped from a window located on the second floor but fell over a spiked fence and was arrested again. However, this fact provoked outrage among the citizens who called for protests for him to be released.
This is how the gay movement in the United States, hand in hand with the Latino community, began to open up spaces in society during the 1970s. But in the mid-1980s, with the appearance of HIV in the world, discrimination against the LGBT+ community intensified because it was believed that this disease was spread only by homosexual people.
It was at that time when Nicole Murray-Ramírez, a gay activist of Mexican origin who had worked for some years for the recognition of her rights and those of her community, created the National Latino/a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Organization (LLEGÓ) , seeking to unite the gay movement in the US to fight not only against discrimination and homophobia, but also against misinformation in the media that accused gays of the high number of infections and deaths from AIDS.
Nicole, also known as 'Empress Nicole the Great' or ‘The Queen Mother of the Americas', is currently 76 years old and is one of the most recognized gay activists among Latinos, she also works as a commissioner for human rights in the city of San Diego and actively participates in gay pride marches.
During the 90s, Julio Rodríguez, of Puerto Rican origin, became one of the main advocates of the Latino gay community in the Chicago area due to his work as a volunteer in different local and national organizations. In that decade he organized conferences, collaborated with social centers, supported various publications and organized marches, so that the rights of the LGBT + community were recognized.
In the following decade, Latino leader Heriberto Sosa founded Unity Coalition, an organization that seeks to empower the Latino gay community in South Florida through several workshops and services. For more than 20 years, the Coalition has provided scholarships for the arts, design, and education to its members. In 2009 Heriberto Sosa received recognition from the city of Miami Beach for his community work with the “Herb Sosa Day.”
In 2007, the Unid@s organization, under the leadership of several Latinos, resumed the work of LLEGÓ, which it had closed three years earlier due to lack of financial resources. Since its founding, the organization's mission has been to convene the Latino community across the United States through a multi-dimensional approach to advocate for their rights.
“I think the same problems that we face as Latinos in general are no different than the problems of the Latino LGBT community: things like immigration, education and racism. All of this is related to issues such as same-sex marriage. It is necessary to have an organization like Unid@s working specifically at the intersection that exists between the LGBT community and the Latino community,” said Noris Chavarría, a member of the organization, in an interview in 2009.
It is difficult to imagine the gay movement in the United States without the participation of the Latino community. Although over the years there is more openness and we see Latin celebrities such as singer Ricky Martin, model Carmen Carrera, actress Michelle Rodríguez and influencer Perez Hilton, celebrating the pride of being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, this It would not have been possible without the thousands of Latino people and organizations who have tirelessly defended these rights over the past 50 years. Although there is still much to do.