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News > World

Latino LGBTI Community Devastated by Orlando Attack

  • Matti Mejia (L) and Shaina Roberts embrace after laying flowers at The Stonewall Inn in memory of the victims of the Orlando massacre, June 13, 2016.

    Matti Mejia (L) and Shaina Roberts embrace after laying flowers at The Stonewall Inn in memory of the victims of the Orlando massacre, June 13, 2016. | Photo: Reuters

Published 13 June 2016

The tight-knit Latin American LGBTI community in Orlando was hard hit by the attack that left 50 dead.

People from Mexico, Venezuela, and Puerto Rico were among those killed Sunday after a shooter stormed a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, and opened fire on the crowd with an assault rifle.

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The Mexican Foreign Ministry confirmed that at least three of those killed were Mexican nationals. A young Venezuelan man was also reportedly killed in the massacre, while a Colombian was gravely injured in the attack.

The greatest number of Latin American victims seemed to come from Puerto Rico, as Orlando is home to one of the largest Puerto Rican communities in the United States.

A list compiled by Buzzfeed indicated the following Puerto Ricans have been killed: Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, Anthony Luis Laureano Disla, Martin Benitez Torres, Franky Jimmy Dejesus Velazquez, Gilberto Ramon Silva Menendez, Javier Jorge-Reyes, Juan P. Rivera Velazquez, and Jonathan Antonio Camuy Vega.

The state of Florida is home to a high number of Latino and Latina people. The nightclub was hosting a “Latin” themed night when the attack occurred, resulting in the overwhelming majority of victims being of Latin American descent.

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The Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Metro Orlando is reported to be arranging bilingual translators and mental health professionals to offer support to the community.

According to USA Today, the nightclub, which went by the name Pulse, was also seen by the LGBTI community as a kind of community center that offered LGBTI-related educational events.

“Pulse, and the men and women who work there, have been my family for nearly 15 years. From the beginning, Pulse has served as place of love and acceptance for the LGBTQ community,” Pulse owner Barbara Poma told the newspaper.

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The attack served to highlight to oppression and violence faced by the LGBTI community, and more specifically violence toward people of color within that community.

A viral video by Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement spoke directly to this issue.

“This attack was years in the making and based off of hundreds and hundreds of years of oppression and violence targeted towards queer and trans people of color,” said one participant in the video.

The fact that the attack occurred at a gay nightclub is also drawing a sharp rebuke from commentators, as it was seen as a “safe” space for the LGBTI community until the attack.

"When I heard it was Latinos, it hit me hard because we are already a minority — Pulse was a safe space, especially because it was Latin night, where you could finally hold someone's hand, or to kiss them while feeling like the majority and unopressed,” Franco Camborda, a university student, told NBC News.

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In a column for the Colorlines website, Miriam Zoila Perez said the attack was “earth shattering” for the queer and trans Latin community.

“These beautiful Brown lives were taken in such a tragic way during a rare moment of queer joy and Latino belonging …. Being queer and Latinx in the U.S. sometimes feels like it can be impossible to find our people. And now tragedy has found us,” wrote Perez.

Leaders from throughout Latin America also sent messages of condolences to the victims of the attack and their relatives.

“Our solidarity with the victims of the Orlando massacre. Together we will fight homophobia and terrorism,” tweeted Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa.

The full list of victims of the attack is not yet known.

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