By Anahi Parra
LL Special Report
Away from my hometown of Mexico City, I am currently in New York City, where last Sunday I had the opportunity to witness two rallies regarding gay marriage in New York, one pro-marriage equality, one against.
The English-language media coverage was more focused on the rally co-organized by Broadway Impact, the Human Rights Campaign, the Empire State Pride Agenda, Marriage Equality New York, the Civil Rights Front, and Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.
The greater coverage might have been due to the presence of New York governor David Paterson and New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, along with a large list of Broadway and television stars that included Audra McDonald, Cynthia Nixon, Kristin Davis, and Ana Ortiz of Ugly Betty. The audience of this rally was mainly composed of middle-class, white people, mostly men, some holding babies in their arms while happily dancing along to the cast of â€œHairâ€ singing â€œLet the Sunshine Inâ€ as a supportive gesture.
Protesters against gay marriage participate in rally organized by Latino clergy.
(Photo: Anahi Parra)
A few blocks away, earlier that afternoon, Reverend Ruben DÃaz, Sr, the New York Hispanic Clergy Organization, and Radio VisiÃ³n Cristiana International gathered in front of David Paterson’s office building with what some estimate were â€œthousandsâ€ of Latin evangelicals, who made it all the way to Manhattan from the outer boroughs and some from other states, transported in vans and buses.
Having in mind the contrast that I saw between both rallies, i.e. one being mainly organized by white people, and the other only by Latinos, I know that there are other Hispanics who have another perspective.
As Ana Ortiz said to Rev. Diaz â€œYou do not represent the voice of Latinos! Absolutely not! Not in our name!.”
Her words need repeating, because while walking through the anti-gay marriage rally, what struck me the most was to see children holding signs against gay marriage, as well as to hear an 18-year-old girl expressing her worry about these unions.
“God created gay people. He loves them. But they don’t know what they are doing,â€ she explained to me with patience. â€œIt is in our hands to make them go back to the good path.â€
I’m staying in Brooklyn, more specifically in Bushwick, a neighborhood forty minutes away from the touristy heart of Manhattan. Here, on the other side of the East River, most of the population speaks Spanish on the streets and at home, and the people I pass on the street look like those I saw at the rally, first and second generation immigrants from the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Ecuador, and Mexico.
Pregnancy rates among teenagers here are considerably high, and drugs, alcoholism, and gangs are large problems in the community. High school graduation rates are lower than the city average, and most students who graduate won’t finish college, either because they have children to take care of or because they have no papers that allow them to work and/or study in the United States. From my perspective, I think that there are forces in the community a lot more destructive than two people wanting to get married.
Last December, an Ecuatorian immigrant was brutally beaten to death on Bushwick Avenue. Jose Sucuzhanay was walking arm-in-arm with his brother Romel, coming back from a church party, maybe a little bit tipsy.
Suddenly, three men came out of a car, shouting at the brothers anti-Latino and anti-gay slurs, assuming that they were a couple. While Romel could escape from one of the attackers, when he loooked back he saw Jose being beaten with a baseball bat by a second assailant.
Jose was declared brain dead a couple of days later, but the family decided to keep him alive until his mother could arrive from Ecuador. Jose couldn’t make it and he died a week later without saying good-bye to his mother. The assailant was arrested last February on charges of second-degree murder as a hate crime, but a sour taste still remains in the neighborhood.
The protest that I witnessed last Sunday, reminded me of this episode and its context, making me wonder if Rev. Diaz is aware of the problems that actually affect the community he is addressing.
Though he looks bored, a young boy dutifully holds up a sign targeting gays at a NYC anti-gay rally.
(Photo: Anahi Parra)
At some level, I wish that Romel Sucuzhanay would have joined the rally in Broadway to remind us that an anti-gay demostration opens the door to other hatreds within a community that already deals with a lot of frustration and violence.
In my fantasy, I like to think that when the New York State Senate passes the gay marriage bill, the parents of those children and teenagers that I saw last Sunday will understand that they were homophobic, and that they were not defending their â€œreligious freedom,” but rather, they were teaching their off-spring how to hate in the name of love.
Anahi Parra is an author of Macha Mexico: A Lesbian Guide to Mexico City