Last Sunday June 10th was the 61st Annual Puerto Rican Day Parade. Some friends from out of town were going and they asked me joined them. I hadn’t been since I was 15. I went because I rarely get a chance to hang out and I also wanted to be there in solidarity with my people. This year the Parade focus heavily on Hurricane Maria, its aftermath and calling out the federal government’s racist response to it.
My friends and I got good spots and we waited for it to start. There were a lot of cops and I have opinions on that but I want to focus on the good things. I had my Puerto Rican and rainbow flag. I happily waved both. I got so many knowing looks, nods and thumbs up. One person came up to me, gave me a little lei and hugged me. Another filmed from her spot on a float and waved her own pride flag while we both chanted.
Trying to describe the feeling is difficult. I was so happy to see other Boricua queers. My heart felt like bursting because I felt so much love. Especially when that one person ran up to me and hugged me. It was kinship and solidarity and understanding personified. Even now, as I write this I can feel my eyes well up. This is why community is so important; so vital. We need to know we aren’t alone in this.
It meant so much especially since it’s been two years since the Pulse shooting. Most of the victims were Puerto Rican. Not only were these people my queer siblings, we share the same culture. The outpouring of love and support that I saw after that terrible day helped me write my coming out story.
I can’t say it gets better or easier but in Puerto Rico we have a saying, Echar pa’lante. Keep going, don’t give up.