Last year’s inaugural Latino Pride Festival will return to the city next week, and organizers are determined to stage another successful event that unites LGBT individuals from the local Latino community and beyond.
The second-annual Latino Pride Festival will run from 2-9 p.m. June 6 at Fifth and Jefferson streets in North Philadelphia.
Brenda Torres, who is organizing the event with her partner Iris Melendez, co-owners of LGBT nightclub Rainbow Eye, said that last year’s event drew about 2,000 people, who represented all facets of the LGBT and ally communities.
“It was so diverse,” Torres said. “We had people from so many different age groups and ethnic backgrounds; it wasn’t just about Latinos or just about young people.”
Torres expects attendance to be even higher this year, fueled by the growing notoriety of the event.
Additionally, last year the festival was held the day before the Pride celebration at Penn’s Landing, and Torres noted that organizers moved the event up a week so as not to interfere with Pride, which she said could also boost community involvement.
“We made a point to hold it a week before Pride this year because we didn’t want to be in anyone’s way of having their annual event,” she said. “And Pride is usually a week full of events, so why not start things off that Saturday?”
This year’s festival will feature a variety of Latino dancers and musicians, as well as other entertainment offerings such as a jazz band and drag performers.
“We’re trying to include not just the Latino community in the entertainment, but also reach out to a lot of different communities with our performers,” Torres said.
The event is not just an outlet for entertainment, however; this year’s festival also aims to raise awareness about cancer prevention among the LGBT community.
Festival-goers will have access to myriad health information — via brochures and onsite medical professionals — about breast and prostate cancer.
“Sometimes a lot of people in the LGBT community feel that we’re not touched by cancer. A gay woman may say, ‘Oh, I don’t need a breast exam,’ or a gay man may think, ‘I don’t need to get myself tested for prostate cancer,’ but in reality no one is exempt from these terrible illnesses,” Torres said. “We’ve heard so many stories from friends and family who’ve never gotten a prostate-cancer test or a mammogram, and we have to start creating an awareness within the LGBT community that these are things that we all must do as individuals.”
While the focus on cancer prevention is a new addition to this year’s festival, so too is the city’s budget crisis.
Torres said that last year festival organizers were able to procure the stage for the event at a low cost from the city, but that, because of the current economic conditions, this option is no longer available.
“This year because of the cuts within the city’s budget, they gave us a list of vendors that they recommend for the stage, but the price is about four or five times what we paid with the city, so we’re having a major, major struggle with that this year,” she said.
Torres said fundraising has also been a challenge.
“It’s been like pulling teeth; it’s really been difficult,” she said. “Everybody’s like ‘Hooray, we can’t wait for the festival,’ but when it comes to the point where we actually need contributions, it’s a little harder. But we are still new, so we’re hoping to solidify ourselves as an annual festival and get more people to start looking our way. My grandfather always said that the first time you do something great, you earn applause, and the second time, you earn respect, so that’s what we’re hoping for.”
Torres said organizers are hosting a softball tournament May 31 at Fifth and Jefferson streets and a beef-and-beer event June 4 at the club, 1449 N. Fifth St., to raise funds for the festival.
She added she’s confident the event will continue to grow each year and will succeed in heightening the visibility and strength of the local LGBT Latino community.
“It’s time for us to say, ‘Yes, we’re Latino,’ and ‘Yes we’re in the LGBT community,’” she said. “Come to our barrio, our backyard. Come join us and see how much fun you’re going to have.”
For more information about the festival, contact Torres at (267) 235-6045 or visit www.myspace.com/rainboweye_gaypride.