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The Golden State is turning brown

César Chávez

San Diego’s LGBT activists are marking Hispanic Heritage Month by establishing the San Diego County Latino Coalition, which held its first organizing meeting this past Monday at The LGBT Community Center. One of the new coalition’s founders, City Commissioner Nicole Murray Ramirez told the crowd that “The Golden State is turning brown, and indeed soon the populations in the states of California, New Mexico, Arizona and Texas will be made up of a majority of Latino citizens.”

California is already feeling the fast growth of the Latino community which is growing in size and influence. LGBT Latinos are rightfully proud of such gay icons as Sylvia Rivera, who is recognized as one of the leading activists in 1969 at the Stonewall Inn in New York. Rivera, a legendary drag queen, in later years helped co-found one of the nation’s first transsexual organizations.

In 1961, World War II veteran and proud Latino activist Jose Julio Sarria became the first openly gay candidate to run for public office in North America, and in 1965 founded the International Imperial Court System, which now has chapters in 70 cities across the U.S.A., Canada and Mexico.

In the 1970s gay icon Harvey Milk and labor leader César Chávez supported each other and Chávez became the first civil rights leader to support gay rights, and spoke at the 1987 National Gay and Lesbian March on Washington.

San Diego LGBT Latino activists have played many roles in both the LGBT and Latino communities. Larry Baza served on the board of directors of the Chicano Federation and was the executive director of the Centro Cultural de La Raza for almost a decade as an openly proud gay man.

John Perez

Probably one of San Diego’s best known gay activists for almost five decades is Nicole Murray Ramirez, an articulate activist who has done much to help build the bridge between the Latino community and the LGBT community, helping to persuade then State Assemblyman Peter Chacon to become one of the first public officials to support gay rights and attend gay events.

San Diego’s first LGBT Latino organization was formed in the 1980s: Orgullo! whose founders were Teresa Oyos, Franko Guillen, Nicole Murray Ramirez and Larry Lions. A Latino Gay Pride Festival had about a three year run in Balboa Park. The Imperial Court de San Diego has a long record of working with local Latina icon Rachel Ortiz and the Barrio Station (a Latino Youth organization) since the late 1970s.

For about five years in the 1990s there was even a LGBT Latino Service Center in North Park called “Bienestar” headed by Carolina Ramos. The San Diego LGBT Center has for well over a decade had Nicole Murray Ramirez Latino Services that provide a safe, welcoming and culturally and linguistically appropriate space for the community.

In the 1980s, State Assemblyman Peter Chacon, Irma Munoz (chair of the San Diego Democratic Party) Franko Guillen, Nicole Murray Ramirez, Alberto Cortes and other activists founded POCASE (the People of Color AIDS Survival Effort) and also established the Imperial Court’s Tijuana AIDS Fund. LGBT Latinos in San Diego took the lead in helping educate their communities.

Latino Nights have become weekly events at almost all of San Diego’s bars and nightclubs. LGBT Latinos are taking leadership roles in The LGBT Center, Pride, Democrats for Equality, sports organizations and more. “If the GLBT community is going to continue to wield political power in California and San Diego, it must support more straight and GLBT Latino candidates for public office,” stated Nicole Murray Ramirez, a past state president of Equality California.

Georgette Gomez

Indeed, California’s first openly gay speaker of the State Assembly was John Perez of Los Angeles and here in San Diego Georgette Gomez, an openly lesbian Latina became the first elected Latina woman to the City Council. The two front runners to replace current councilman Chris Ward, who is rumored to be looking at higher office, are Will Rodriguez Kennedy and Nick Serrano.

“What is very important to realize is that Latino/Hispanic American’s origins are not just from Mexico,” stated Nick Serrano. “Our origins are from Honduras, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Puerto Rico, El Salvador, Cuba and many other countries within Central and South America.”

Latinos have much to celebrate during Hispanic Heritage Month as they become more visible and influential across the western states.

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Posted by on Sep 28, 2017. Filed under Around the City, Bottom Highlights, Latest Issue. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

1 Comment for “The Golden State is turning brown”

  1. It’s also important to acknowledge Steve Padilla, who came out in 2005 at a Spirit of Stonewall Pride rally while serving as mayor of Chula Vista. His doing so made Chula Vista the largest US city at the time to have an openly LGBT mayor (bumping out Providence, RI from the top spot). After a few years out of office, Steve was elected to a seat on the Chula Vista city council 2016.

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