Windy City Media Group Frontpage News
Celebrating 30 Years of Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Trans News
home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2019-02-13
About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage



Puerto Rican Cultural Center hosts out gay Massachusetts councilors
by Gretchen Rachel Hammond

facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

The streets of the Paseo Boricua ( Puerto Rican Promenade ) in the Humboldt Park neighborhood of Chicago were possibly the most vibrant and jubilant in the city Sept. 3 as the 23rd annual Fiesta Boricua—described as "one of the Midwest's most important branded Latino festivals"—kicked off two days of music, dance, arts, crafts and cuisine.

Founded by the Puerto Rican Cultural Center of Chicago ( PRCC )—the largest, community-based Puerto Rican organization in the Midwest, for over twenty years Fiesta Boricua has become an integral part of the firmly established identity of the neighborhood.

Yet, this year, the festival featured two stark reminders of what happens when identity becomes a casualty of hatred.

Over half of the 49 courageous fallen in the June 12 Orlando Pulse Nightclub massacre were Puerto Rican. The pictures of the 49 which led this year's Chicago Pride Parade were saved and installed on a Division Street wall in the heart of the Paseo Boricua.

On another wall at the corner of Campbell and Division, Puerto Rican artist Richard Santiago had begun work on a mural honoring their memories.

It was Humboldt Park and Fiesta Boricua's celebration of community that provided Holyoke Mass. City Councilor Nelson Roman with his first experience of Chicago.

Roman is a native of Connecticut who moved to Western Massachusetts following initial rejection by his family when he came out. He spent two years homeless while infected with HIV/AIDS. Roman prevailed, eventually becoming a homeless case manager and community organizer.

Inspired by Holyoke's first openly gay mayor Alex Morse, along with lesbian and Puerto Rican city councilor Jossie Valentin ( now in her second term after her 2013 election as the first lesbian ever to hold that office ), Roman decided to run himself.

Today, he and Valentin are the only openly gay members of the Holyoke City Council.

Both were in Chicago due to the PRCC's national work around the fiscal crisis currently faced by Puerto Rico. PRCC representatives from met Roman in Massachusetts and invited him to visit the city as part of a delegation.

Activist and PRCC board member Roberto Sanabria hosted a Sept. 3 reception at his beautiful apartment overlooking the Paseo Boricua to welcome Roman and Valentin.

"I am overwhelmed with joy and excitement," Roman told Windy City Times. "Especially coming here to the Paseo Boricua and seeing the Orlando vigil wall or the Pride as well as the Puerto Rican flags. I haven't even gone to the downtown area. This is Chicago and it has been an amazing experience."

"The city of Holyoke has about 40,000 residents and about 49 percent of them are Latino," Valentin said. "But, when you look at the political representation, there's 15 city councilors and only four of us are Latino. For me, running was part of the phrase 'if you're not at the table, you are on the menu'. As a woman, as a Latina and as a lesbian, I felt like it was important that I run with all of those identities at the forefront."

"This is the first time in its history that Holyoke has two Latino, openly LGBT elected who are social justice oriented," she added. "Both of us our similar in the narrative we are trying to frame. For example, it took a very long time for elected officials to start talking about the importance of the Black Lives Matter ( BLM ) movement. In 2014, I decided to participate in a Black Lives Matter protest in Holyoke. To this day, I get a lot of criticism for doing that but, for me, it was a no-brainer. We're here to talk about oppression and how to change things."

"The way I feel that we govern and participate in government is in an activist's role," Roman said. "Holyoke has the number one hormone treatment facility and medical center for transgender individuals. Programs like Needle Exchange are something that Jossie and I believe in and fight for. We support an LGBT youth group in Holyoke. It is a very proactive approach to a lot of the issues that we are facing."

Valentin recently put forward a resolution opposing North Carolina's anti-transgender legislation while asserting that Holyoke stands against such oppression. Roman noted that, this year, Holyoke will host its first World AIDS Day activities including a vigil.

"Some of our colleagues didn't get Jossie's resolution," he said. "But we rallied them. When it comes to human or civil rights you have to be fearless and not worry about whether you are going to win reelection or not."

Yet the outcome of the November 7 general election does concern them both.

"It's increasingly critical not just at the top of the ticket, but at even local board levels," Roman said. "Outside the island of Puerto Rico, there's 5.5 million of us living in the U.S. and 3.5 million on the island. Wherever our diaspora is, we have an opportunity to sway this election. If we don't, it will embolden racist, homophobic and transphobic individuals to pass laws to restrict our rights and take us back to a time where we have to live in fear of being who we are."

For more information about the Puerto Rican Cultural Center, visit: .

facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

Windy City Media Group does not approve or necessarily agree with the views posted below.
Please do not post letters to the editor here. Please also be civil in your dialogue.
If you need to be mean, just know that the longer you stay on this page, the more you help us.


Gay News

The Jeff Awards to present panel on Latinx Theater 2019-02-12 - February 12, 2019, Chicago, IL - The Jeff Awards meeting on Monday, February 18, 2019 at the Greenhouse Theater will include a panel ...

Gay News

Weiss is Equality Illinois Proud 2019-02-05 - Attending the Equality Illinois gala this weekend was Mira Ebalo, PA-C, in black tie and tutu, who represented the Weiss Memorial Hospital gender ...

Gay News

Buttigieg and Pritzker headline Equality Illinois gala 2019-02-03 - South Bend, Indiana, Mayor—and potential presidential candidate—Pete Buttigieg was among the speakers headlining Equality Illinois' 2019 gala celebration Feb. 2 at Chicago Hilton ...

Gay News

NIGHTLIFE PHOTOS Mr. Chicago Leather 2019-01-30 - Meet Saber Onyx, Mr. Chicago Leather 2019, chosen Saturday, January 26, at Leather Archives & Museum. Joseph Stevens Photography ...

Gay News

OUTspoken! LGBTQ storyteller series at Sidetrack Feb. 5 2019-01-30 - The February edition of OUTspoken! LGBTQ storyteller series takes place Tuesday, February 5, at Sidetrack, 3349 N. Halsted St. Doors open at 6 ...

Gay News

Drag profile of the week, Krissy Feetface 2019-01-29 - NAME "Krissy is an extension of my given name ( Kris ). People called me Krissy growing up when I was being too ...

Gay News

NIGHTLIFE PHOTOS Sidetrack 2019-01-16 - All abuzz in the Beyhive for All Things Beyonce. Photos by Jed Dulanas ...

Gay News

DRAG PROFILE Jerfay 2019-01-16 - NAME "JerFay simply comes from my boy name being 'Jeffrey' and I just mixed it up for a new persona!" FIRST DRAG ...

Gay News

Families of Chicago banquet held at Ida Noyes Hall 2019-01-09 - The third annual Families of Chicago ( FOC ) Save Our Scene banquet, Third Time's a Charm, took place Jan. 5 at the ...

Gay News

WORLD Historic marriage, anti-trans attacks, Jamaica fire, Latin America news 2019-01-08 - Two women tied the knot just minutes after midnight in Austria—making them the first same-sex couple to get married on the day it ...


Copyright © 2019 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.








About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage

About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Subscriptions      Distribution      Windy City Queercast     
Queercast Archives      Advertising  Rates      Deadlines      Advanced Search     
Press  Releases      Event Photos      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Post an Event      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Blogs      Spotlight  Video     
Classifieds      Real Estate      Place a  Classified     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.