By Julie Cortez, El Hispanic News
Portland, OR — Portland Latino Gay Pride (PLGP) is going back to its roots as it simultaneously takes on an infusion of fresh leadership and energy. After two years away, the PLGP Festival will return to its original home the Jupiter Hotel on July 21, from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Packed into two days this year — and celebrating the theme of ¡Viva La Vida! — PLGP opens with Voz Alta at 7 p.m. on July 20 at Q Center, continues with the PLGP Festival at the Jupiter the following day, and closes with a dance party at Embers that evening beginning at 9 p.m.
PLGP Board Chair David Martínez looks forward to the streamlined schedule and the homecoming at the Jupiter, but what really excites him is the number of new leaders who are stepping up to make PLGP a reality.
“It makes me feel so good to see others see the value, and really have this commitment to see it be successful,” he says. “It’s not just a party. … We are bringing our community together and sharing it with the larger community.”
Martínez, who has chaired the board since he helped found the PLGP eight years ago, learned while attending a conference recently about something called “founder’s syndrome”— an affliction in which organizations’ founding members have “been there so long they set up roadblocks to new ideas. … As one of the founders I never want that to happen. … It’s important that new leadership get involved and be supported. And I’m really excited because I see that happening.”
Martínez foresees a day when he will step down as chair — perhaps when the PLGP reaches its quinceañera, he likes to say. “I will continue to be involved and continue to contribute,” Martínez insists, “but I think it’s important that new people be at the forefront.”
Liz Rodríguez, now in her second year as PLGP secretary, is credited by Martínez and others on the board with making the planning process far more organized and keeping her colleagues on task throughout the year leading up to the celebration. Martínez also appreciates what Rodríguez brings to the table culturally as a Cuban American raised in Miami.
“She really reminds us that when we think of Latino Gay Pride,” Martínez says, “we need to be reflective of the whole Latino experience.”
Rodríguez concurs that her background — and those of fellow board members such as Christian Baeff of Argentina and Vanessa La Torre of Peru — “brings a certain amount of flavor” to a community dominated by Mexican American culture.
After moving here five years ago, and leaving Miami’s vibrant and diverse Latino community behind, Rodríguez became involved in PLGP out of a desire “to be part of the local Latino queer community. … I really had to sort of seek it out in Portland.”
“The Latino community in Portland is definitely a minority,” she continues, “so this is an opportunity to celebrate the queer Latino culture that we do have … [and] to really kind of showcase the talents of the Latino community. … Portland’s a great town, but there isn’t a lot of representation for Latinos in general, and specifically for LGBT Latinos. … [PLGP has] been going for eight years now, so it’s really something the community wants and supports.”
She hopes to help grow PLGP so it can continuously offer the sense of connection she initially sought and found. “Hopefully in the coming years we’ll be able to do more things throughout the year and maintain more of a presence,” she says. “… So we’re always open to folks willing to offer their time and effort.”
PLGP is also open to folks of all cultures, sexualities, and gender identities. Rodríguez insists the celebration is “by Latinos, for everyone.”
“We want to highlight the Latino LGBT experience,” Martínez says. “It’s open to everyone. … We always say it’s for Latinos and the people who love us.”
For any straight allies wondering if there is a place for them, Joaquín López — whom Martínez praises for his initiative and hard work in making the PLGP’s opening night, Voz Alta, a premier cultural event — points out that not all the artists participating in the evening of poetry and music are gay — for good reason.
“I think it’s important to broaden our vision and our understanding of Latino Gay Pride,” López says. “Our stories are universal.”
For more information on Portland Latino Gay Pride, visit latinogaypridepdx.com.