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'Orgullo means pride': Hispanic LGBT Unity Coalition celebrates with big party in Miami Beach

Celebrate Orgullo 2013-10-05 042

BY STEVE ROTHAUS, srothaus@MiamiHerald.com

Just as Miami-Dade’s leading Hispanic LGBT group prepared to celebrate gay pride on Saturday, word arrived that the county is No. 6 nationally in same-sex couples with Latino/a households.

There are an estimated 108,000 LGBT Hispanics in Florida and 2,766 same-sex couples with at least one Hispanic householder in Miami-Dade County. Fifteen percent of those couples are raising children, according to a report this week from Williams Institute at UCLA law school based on 2010 Census data.

Celebrate Orgullo 2013-10-05 017“It’s not a surprise. It reaffirms that we’re programming to the right audience,” said Herb Sosa, president of Unity Coalition, the group that sponsored Celebrate Orgullo — Hispanic gay pride — Saturday afternoon in Miami Beach. “It reaffirms those numbers when you see the attendance at the workshops we have. You see it in the audience, where nearly every person sitting in the room is [part of] a binational couple.”

Nelson Maldonado, 27, took a two-hour bus ride from Fort Lauderdale to attend Orgullo. “I wanted to come represent for the Latino community here in South Florida,” he said. “I wanted to be part of it.”

Unity Coalition is 11 years old. This was the group’s third annual Orgullo.

“Orgullo means pride. The reason why we celebrate Hispanic pride in October is because, nationally, October is Hispanic Heritage Month,” Sosa said.

“In 2011, a group of organizations and community leaders came together with the city of Miami Beach and developed a special event to celebrate Hispanic LGBT pride in Miami Beach,” he said.

The first two years, Orgullo took place on South Beach. This year, it moved north.

“We felt the festival needed its own identity and a little bit of room to grow, so we took it on the road and moved it to Collins and 73rd on the beach,” Sosa said. “It’s still Miami Beach and more centrally located to the Hispanic neighborhoods, as well as better access for our neighbors to the north.”

Celebrate Orgullo 2013-10-05 030Celebrate Orgullo featured 55 vendors and two entertainment stages. Among the celebrity personalities and performers: singers Albita, Madai and Jei; DJ Reddy; South Florida drag stars Pussilla, Shanaya Bright and Adora; and Enrique Santos of Mix 98.3 FM.

Santos, whose Miami-based syndicated radio show is heard across the nation, said it’s important for all LGBT people and allies to participate in gay pride events.

“Gay people, straight people, bisexual people, transgender people, coming together as a community,” said Santos, who came out publicly last year during a Barack Obama presidential campaign fundraiser in Miami Beach. “It shows that your sexual orientation doesn’t determine your character.”

Orgullo also had an educational component. “We have a substantial amount of information at the festival,” Sosa said. “Everything from immigration, on binational couples, adoption, where and how to marry.”

Celebrate Orgullo is not for profit. Corporate proceeds raised Saturday benefitted Unity Coalition’s LGBT youth scholarship program, along with the Anita Priest Whispering Angels Memorial Scholarship Foundation.

Mother and daughter Graciela and Vanessa Rodriguez said they had a great time at Orgullo.

“You come to support the cause. It’s a fun festival. I like that they’re supporting the gays and marriage equality,” Vanessa said. “If we don’t have their support, how is anyone going to know what’s going on in the world, what’s going on anywhere? In Miami Beach, you find everyone everywhere, but there’s still a lot of discrimination toward them.”

Graciela Rodriguez said she came to Orgullo “to support my daughter 100 percent.”

Vanessa came out at 15. “It was like nothing. That’s who she is. I’ve got to love her for who she is,” Graciela said. “I’m supporting my daughter, as always.”

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Click here to view more pictures from Celebrate Orgullo. Photos by STEVE ROTHAUS / Miami Herald Staff.

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