Discourse between the U.S. and Puerto Rico over the political status of the world's oldest colony has been a hot topic of conversation in news headlines for years.
The U.S. territory, acquired in 1898 at the end of the Spanish-American War, faces another distinct tale of adversity beyond the refuting of its admission as the newest state. Like many other of its Caribbean neighbors, human rights for the LGBT community has been a strenuous uphill battle, unique in it's own right when contrasted to whatâ€™s been experienced in the states.
A glaringly visible public opposition in both of Puerto Rico's major political parties along with the strong influence of the Roman Catholic Church and socially conservative Protestants has hindered the progress of human rights for Puerto Rico's LGBT community.
It was only last year that Puerto Rico's governor, Alejandro Garcia Padilla, signed into law a gay rights bill that will prohibit employment discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation.
Although strides have remained slow, Puerto Rico has been the most visited tourist destination in the Caribbean among LGBT travelers.Â Â The Caribbean Island better known as "Isla del Encanto" (Island of Enchantment) is no stranger to tribulations, and continues to prevail despite historical hardships.
As ignorance dissipates and cultural awareness and acceptance strengthens abroad, so does the community as manifested in the celebration of Puerto Rico's annual Puerto Rico Pride Day.
This now annual event began in June of 1991 with a group of friends in San Juan as a picnic, and relied on the support of local bars for food and beverages. That same year, with the support of local community organizations and businesses, an official Puerto Rico Pride foundation, the Puerto Rican Lesbian and Gay Coalition (CoaliciĂłn PuertorriqueĂ±a de Lesbianas y Homosexuales), was formed.
That year the community also observed the first public celebration of National Coming Out Day in October. The following year the first Pride parade was organized.
â€śThe initial number of people marching for those times was close to two thousand. Twenty-four years later weâ€™re close to fifteen thousand,â€ť said Luis Conti, chair of the media and communications board for Puerto Rico Pride. â€śFor the next year weâ€™re planning to get this celebration to be the best party in the Caribbean for the LGBT community â€” a whole month of Pride activities and more.â€ť
Puerto Rico Pride is celebrated annually on the first Sunday of the month with this yearâ€™s event beginning June 1. This year Pride has been expanded to a whole week ending on June 8.
It will take place on the beachfront in the commonwealth's capital city, San Juan, while the parade and festival will take place in the Condado District, one of the most gay friendly tourist areas of Puerto Rico.
This popular oceanfront destination has set the standard for LGBT travelers thanks to its array of fashionable hotels and gay friendly venues. The gay beach is located at the foot of Calle Vendig (Vendig Street), in front of the popular gay owned bar and restaurant Oceano.
Pride week will feature beach parties, beauty pageants, and popular local Djs. The mayor of San Juan, Carmen YulĂn Cruz Soto, and the first openly gay elected politician in Puerto Rico's history, vice president of the Capital City Council, Pedro Peters Maldonado, will participate in the parade along with activists from thirty human rights organizations.
â€śEveryone is welcome here. Come and join us. This year weâ€™ll rock the beach!â€ť Conti said.
The events are free and welcome donations of support. Visit the office Prideâ€™s website at www.PuertoRicoPride.org. Follow PR Pride on Facebook: Parada De Orgullo LGBTT De Puerto Rico and Twitter and Instagram at: @orgulloarcoiris