The Third Annual Boyle Heights Orgullo Pride Festival, also known as “Orgullo Fest”, has become a staple in the community, striving to create a safe space in the neighborhood to celebrate queerness.
“It definitely integrates a lot of our culture in terms of music, community, and families. It’s very specific to (the) hood here,” said Jasine Cumplido, a program coordinator for the Latino Equality Alliance, which advocates for the LGBTQ+ community.
The event is scheduled from 2 to 11:45 p.m. on Saturday and will be free of charge for the local community. The parade itself will start at the intersection of 1st and Chicago Streets, and parade-goers will march up to Soto Street where the grand celebration is set to take place.
Transgender activist Bamby Salcedo and singer performer Fedro will serve as the parade’s grand marshals. Festival performers include Mariachi Arcoiris, Banda Las Inolvidables, as well as folklorico and drag groups. Elected city officials such as L.A. City Councilman Kevin de León, Rep. Jimmy Gomez, Assemblyman Miguel Santiago, and California Senator Maria Elena Durazo are also set to make appearances throughout the celebration.
Richard L. Zaldivar, executive director and president of The Wall Las Memorias – a wellness organization dedicated to serving Latino, LGBTQ+, and other underserved groups – said the event is a family affair.
“Our community is not just queer, it’s also their familia. The mothers and the grandmothers, we need to build support and get them involved with a celebration,” Zaldivar said.
The event comes at a time when violent protests have emerged as a result of Pride advocacy in schools. Just last week, fights broke out outside the Glendale Unified School District as board members discussed recognizing June as Pride Month.
“Now is the time, more than ever, to increase that visibility because there are youth out there in our community that are seeing these headlines and watching these injustices happen,” said Cumplido with the Latino Equality Alliance. “It’s gonna benefit them to walk down their streets, to walk down their neighborhood, and to see an entire celebration affirming their identities.”
Initially, Orgullo Fest was called the Boyle Heights Pride Parade and was organized entirely by De León’s office in collaboration with another community organizer.
“You see it in West Hollywood, you see it in Hollywood. You see pride celebrated across the city, across the region, and we just haven’t had that presence on the east side,” said Pete Brown, who serves as De León’s communication director. “Folks deserve to have space in their own community. It’s an opportunity to celebrate and not have to trek outside of their neighborhood and community to be recognized and to be celebrated.”
Tonie Juarez, a business owner and event organizer in the neighborhood, took the lead role in the event’s management in its second year. Although a prominent figure in Boyle Heights, Juarez does not personally identify as a member of the LGBTQ+ community, but does consider herself an ally.
Some community members, including Cumplido, see that as an issue.
“I think it’s really important that we honor allyship, but it’s also really important to keep it reflective of the community that we’re trying to serve at the end of the day, like. We are trying to increase visibility and acceptance for LGBTQ+ individuals,” said Cumplido.
The Walls Las Memorias and the Latino Equality Alliance have sought to be further involved in the planning of the event, but conflicts within have gotten in the way. The two organizations, however, will be tabling at the festival. Juarez was unable to be reached for comment.
“We were hoping that this event would be community-led because it is supposed to be reflective and serving of our community here in Boyle Heights. But, unfortunately, we didn’t really get that opportunity as far as we know,” Cumplido said.
Despite the disagreements, Orgullo Fest continues on. De León’s office remains involved in the planning of the event.
Zaldivar said he acknowledges the organizers’ dedication, but said it’s important to build community and recognize the hardships LGBTQ+ people have endured in the community.
“They excluded people. They were really clear that they were doing this on their own…it’s a shame when you spend your whole life fighting to be included,” said Zaldivar. “You want to make sure that you have a cross-section of support for events like this, and I just don’t see that happening.”