From rainbow lights illuminating Puerto Rico’s capitol building to candlelight vigils in hundreds of cities, solidarity with the LGBT victims of Sunday’s massacre at Pulse nightclub in Orlando have poured out across Latin America in the days since the attack. Government officials, celebrities and musicians have added their voices to the chorus of support.
“The Dominican LGBT community is in mourning over the slaughter in Florida of LGBTI people,” tweeted lawyer Yimbert Telemin, the first openly gay person to run for a city office in the Dominican Republic.
“Everyone who opposes the rights of the LGBT community are accomplices of what happened in Orlando,” wrote Calle 13 lead singer Residente from Puerto Rico. “Everyone.”
“We will overcome hatred with love!” said Colombian Senator Claudia López on Twitter, captioning a photo of herself with her partner Angélica Lozano, another Colombian congresswoman.
U.S. embassies across the region also decided to fly their flags at half-mast as a memorial to the victims.
Gay rights activist and blogger Andrés Duque, who runs the @NoticiasLGBT Twitter account from New York, told Univision News that solidarity from across Latin America has been moving and impressive.
“People have been flooding me with announcements of events in other countries,” Duque says. “This really struck a chord with a lot of people.”
El Capitolio esta noche, en homenaje a las víctimas de la masacre de Orlando. pic.twitter.com/xHsKpmHB0U
— Maritza Diaz Alcaide (@maritzadiazalca) June 14, 2016
Just as there’s been stunning growth in Americans’ acceptance of the LGBT community in recent decades, the last 10 years have seen huge advances in LGBT rights across the Americas, even though laws are complex and wide-ranging.
In recent years, same-sex marriage has been legalized in Argentina, Brazil, Puerto Rico, Uruguay and Colombia, as well as in Mexico City and in eight of the country's thirty-one states. Same-sex couples can now adopt in Bermuda, Puerto Rico, Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico and Uruguay. And transgender people can change their legal name and gender in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Uruguay, Bolivia and Ecuador.
Mexico recently announced that it intends to join a coalition of 19 other countries – including Argentina and Brazil – that are leading efforts to promote the political agenda of the LGBT community through the United Nations.
Duque observes growing LGBT tolerance in places not commonly associated with progressive views on gays and lesbians, “like really small towns in Chile, Colombia and the Caribbean,” he says.
“Even if it’s just been a rainbow flag on a wall or little vigils or remembrance activities or candlelight on the street, it’s happening all over,” he said.
Still, in the historically Catholic region where acts of homophobia are a regular occurrence, not all attitudes have been supportive in the wake of the Orlando tragedy.
Jose de Jesus Manzo Corona, an official from Mexico's Jalisco state, wrote on Facebook Sunday about the victims: "Too bad there were 50 and not 100.” Jalisco Governor Aristóteles Sandoval swiftly fired him.
In Colombia, Twitter user @JoeySpardy caused fury when he tweeted a homophobic message on Monday about openly gay Education Minister Gina Parody and Senator López, who had posted the picture with her partner in support of Orlando: "Last night I dreamed that the bodies of @CLOPEZanalista and @ginaparody were found in #PulseNightClub in Orlando." His account has since been deleted.
In Jamaica, long known for anti-gay prejudice and homophobia, Attorney General Marlene Malahoo sparked controversy when she described the decison by the U.S. embassy in Jamaica to raise the rainbow flag as “disrespectful” in a tweet.
Jamaica is among eleven other nations in the former British West Indies that still have criminal punishment for “buggery” – commonly interchanged with sodomy – on the books.
The U.S. embassy stood by the memorial gesture. Malahoo’s tweet has since been deleted.
Also, before Monday night’s Copa America match between Venezuela and Mexico, a minute’s silence was held to honor the victims of the Orlando tragedy, which included four Mexican nationals. But later on in the match, as Venezuela keeper Dani Hernandez prepared to take a goal kick, the crowd chanted “puto,” slang for “faggot.”
Earlier in June, Mexico’s soccer federation FMF launched the campaign “Ya párale” (Stop already) aimed to put an end to the controversial chant.