Metro Weekly

Four out LGBTQ candidates win elections in Puerto Rico

Victories come amid unrest over the killings of six transgender individuals and anti-LGBTQ violence on the island

(From left to right): Ana Irma Rivera Lassén, Jorge Báez Pagán, Miguel “Ricky Mendez, and Edgardo Cruz Vélez – Photos: Facebook.

Four LGBTQ candidates in Puerto Rico were elected to public office last Tuesday.

Ana Irma Rivera Lassén, a longtime lawyer and activist on the island, became the first Black, openly lesbian Puerto Rican elected to the Puerto Rico Senate. In the 1980s, Rivera, an anti-discrimination advocate, famously sued a judge and won after being refused entry into court because she was wearing pants, reports TIME.

Now the spokesperson for the Citizens’ Victory Movement, Rivera was attacked by Antulio “Kobbo” Santarrosa, the host of La Comay, a Puerto Rican gossip show hosted by a life-sized puppet of the same name, five months ago.

Activists had called for a boycott of the show after Santarrosa mocked her accent and implied she was acting like a servant to her white counterpart in the Citizens’ Victory Movement, according to The Americano.

Jorge Báez Pagán, an openly gay member of the pro-statehood New Progressive Party, won his race for an at-large seat in the Puerto Rico House of Representatives. 

Miguel “Ricky” Méndez, an openly gay member of the Popular Democratic Party, was elected as the mayor of Isabela, a small municipality in the northwestern part of the island. 

Edgardo Cruz Vélez, an openly gay Air Force veteran, won a write-in campaign for mayor of Guánica, a municipality in the southwestern part of the island.

The progress for LGBTQ candidates comes against the backdrop of a wave of anti-LGBTQ violence that has plagued the island this year, claiming the lives of at least six transgender people and injuring or killing several other LGBTQ people.

Even though Puerto Rico’s hate crimes law technically protects victims targeted because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, such protections are rarely enforced by local authorities, who may allow their own biases to color their judgment.

LGBTQ activists have criticized outgoing Gov. Wanda Vázquez and other New Progressive Party lawmakers over their response to the violence, but feel their concerns have largely been ignored.

The FBI has intervened in the case of two transgender women, Serena Angelique Velázquez Ramos and Layla Peláez Sánchez, whose bodies were found inside the charred remains of a vehicle that was left by the side of the road in Humacao. Two men now face federal carjacking and weapons charges related to the women’s deaths.

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