Five Signs That Puerto Rico is Gayer Than You Think
For all its beauty and travel convenience (no passport required for Americans!), Puerto Rico is sometimes overlooked by gay travelers, who assume that it's simply not a very LGBT-friendly place. That may have once been true, but things are rapidly changing (some say thanks at least in part to Ricky Martin's coming out in 2010), as is evidenced by these rather surprising recent developments.
Don't be too disheartened by Puerto Rico's recent decision to uphold a law banning gay couples from adopting children. In spite of this setback, the LGBT community is making strides, one artist, boxer and politician at a time.
1. The main exhibition at the Museum of Art of Puerto Rico right now is by a queer artist.
Through March 31, San Juan's biggest art museum is hosting The Zero Degree of the Image, a retrospective of the work of gay Puerto Rican artist René Santos, who lost his life to AIDS in 1986.
2. Orlando Cruz is now the first out pro boxer in the world.
Cruz made mainstream international headlines last October by becoming the first working professional boxer to ever come out as gay. Cruz told The Advocate this January that Puerto Rican culture is not nearly as homophobic as people believe. "It's a myth," he said. "I've had overwhelming support from the Puerto Rican people. We're very proud people, and they have been so accepting of me."
3. Anti-discrimination legislation, proposed by PR's first out elected official, is expected to pass any day now.
November's election brought big changes to Puerto Rico's political scene, with the liberal Popular Democratic Party taking control of both the Senate and House of Representatives, and ushering in Pedro "Peters" Maldonado as Puerto Rico's first openly gay official (as the vice president of the San Juan Municipal Assembly). Party officials wasted little time in introducing a long-delayed bill that would make it a crime to discriminate against people based on gender or sexual orientation. Debate of the bill continues and it is widely expected to pass.
4. PR's most beloved trash-talking puppet was just forced to resign over anti-gay slurs.
For 13 years, La Comay was an icon in Puerto Rico, a brashly irreverent gossip-slinging matron, who was actually male comedian Kobbo Santarrosa wearing an oversized puppet head on the TV show "SuperXclusivo." La Comay had run afoul of Puerto Rican gays many times before, most commonly for her use of the derogatory term "pato," basically the local equivalent of "fag." But in December, she finally went too far: Following the brutal murder of publicist José Enrique Gómez (who was beaten and locked in the trunk of his car, which was then set on fire), La Comay suggested that Gómez, who was married to a woman, was asking for trouble by being in an area frequented by gay prostitutes. The public outcry was enormous, and on Jan. 9, Santarrosa resigned from "SuperXclusivo."
5. San Juan's LGBT community is rallying behind Stonewall Riot veteran Christina Hayworth.
In another bizarre story that shows just how much things have changed in Puerto Rico of late, one of the commonwealth's fiercest longtime anti-gay zealots, a pastor named Jorge Raschke, recently became the grandstanding champion of down-on-her-luck Puerto Rican trans activist Christina Hayworth, who Raschke suddenly and very publicly claimed had been abandoned in her hour of need by San Juan's LGBT community, apparently to try to show the public how heartless gay people are.
In truth, the local gay community had already been quietly assisting Hayworth. Several LGBT organizations and activists united to put on a massive fundraising event called "Show All Your Love! The Cristina Hayworth Ball" at popular San Juan gay club Splash on Feb. 15.