Participants at first Boyle Heights Pride Parade and Festival. Photo by Antonio Mejías-Rentas

For a minute early Saturday morning, it looked like Boyle Heights’ first ever Pride parade was not going to happen. Check-in for marching organizations was at 9 am and organizers had paid for a city permit, to close off a segment of First Street from Boyle to Soto, but as floats and people arrived, event organizers realized the street was not closed off. 

Tonie Juárez, vice president of the pride parade and festival, said Hollenbeck Police acted swiftly. The station’s senior lead officer, Johnny Altamirano, closed off the blocks needed for the parade and provided extra security. 

“He is today’s hero!” said Juárez.

From then on, the event went off flawlessly – with the parade starting about half an hour behind schedule, at 10:30. Hundreds of attendees and about 50 vendors/organizations came together for a celebration of the LGBTQ+ experience in Boyle Heights – no incidents involving police were reported.

“We call it Orgullo, we don’t call it Pride, that’s on the other side of town,” said City Council member Kevin de León, who rode a car on the parade route along with Congressman Jimmy Gómez – both with Pride flag colors painted on their cheeks.

“There is a reason we call it Orgullo,” De León went on.  “It’s because many Latino LGBTQIA+ have felt left out of more mainstream Pride events.” 

Eddie Martínez, executive director at LEA/Mi Centro, reassured De León’s sentiment. 

“We are queer but also brown so to have [the parade and festival] in Boyle Heights, just means we get to celebrate both parts of who we are,” said Martínez. 

A couple of hours later, folklorico dancers officially kicked off the festival. A variety of food vendors lined up the street. Different healthcare providers were in attendance hoping to educate LGBTQ+ community members on healthy relationships and HIV prevention. 

“The Wellness Center works with the LGBTQ+ community by giving free services and family resources all in support of the community,” said that organization’s Juana Mena Ochoa.

The night brought the crowds to the main stage where DJs and performers entertained an enthralled audience – especially drag artists and headliners  Iván Tavares, Fredo and Maribel Guardia, who closed the event shortly before 11 pm.

Boyle Heights Beat reporters Jennifer López and Alex Medina contributed to this report.

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Carmen González

Carmen González is a former Boyle Heights Beat reporter, a 2019 graduate of Felícitas and Gonzalo Méndez High School and a student at Cal State Long Beach. González is a fellow with the CalMatters...

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