Humboldt Park’s Summer of LGBTQ Solidarity

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When sifting through June pictures of this Chicago summer, it takes a minute to place where they were taken. The evidence of rainbow flags tells a story too important not to share. Like when talking about being back working in Paseo Boricua, a newly integrated staff member of the LGBTIQ housing in transition program says, “I never realized so many queers worked for the [Juan Antonio Corretjer Puerto Rican] Cultural Center.” Between the LGBTIQ-focused programming and the organization’s tenure of supporting gender and sexual minorities who contribute in other projects and programs, the queer contributions to cultural empowerment in Puerto Rican Chicago are being normalized. For that reason, talking about pride in Humboldt Park, especially this summer, there’s no need to choose which flag to wave during Puerto Rican Parades or Gay Pride Parades. What’s more, this is the second year that Dyke March Chicago will be hosting their march, after-party barbeque and show in the heart of Puerto Rican Chicago, Humboldt Park.

For the first time in years, Chicago tells a story about the beauty of being able to wave more than one flag during a parade. More than sacrilegious or unpatriotic, the waving of both flags spanning generations and floats speaks of growing integration and normalcy. Where before, I had written about the conflation of two struggles present in this community, over the years change in leadership has increased vocalization of those concerns and the ability to address them. El Rescate, a program inspired by the harsh realities lived by homeless queer youth of color, provides safe haven for those otherwise criminalized in society. Three years and counting, El Rescate has addressed a gap in services because of a community sparked and desired need. Their float states the significance of waving both flags because the program and housing creates an opportunity for those they can house to find a home.

From the days of entering data for Vida SIDA ten years ago, the after effects of rejection and isolation call for that need for home as well as compassion for the difficult internal and social trials one faces in an attempt to find a short or long term place to stay. To return dignity to a population so often constructed as helpless or criminal, the cacica pageant honors the moments of resiliency and courage in self-expression.

Below, the cacica queen wears a dress with the Puerto Rican flag hovering over an idyllic image de la patria. For the past five years, the float has gone from the Puerto Rican Parade the Saturday before Father’s Day to the Pride Parade the Sunday after Father’s Day in the affirming tale of a community that does its best to serve all its people.

Click on the photo for additional images. 

All of these efforts, and the continued support for queer leaders outside of LGBTIQ centered advocacy work, sustain the safe and inclusive space Humboldt Park works to build. For this reason, it is important to note that not all the show of Rainbow pride came from LGBTIQ-centered floats nor from the parade itself. Even spectators waved their flags while wearing boricua pride because, on that day of celebrating culture, resiliency in the face of gentrification, and hope, they have internalized that, for once they don’t have to choose.

© Erika Gisela Abad. Published by permission in Centro Voices on 21 July 2015.
Hero image and photo of boy holding flag courtesy of Kristian Otero. All other images courtesy of the author.

Centro Voices (ISSN: 2379-3864).
The views expressed here are those of the author and not necessarily those of Centro Voices, the Center for Puerto Rican Studies or Hunter College, CUNY.