Pride events may be taking place all over L.A. County this month, but participants in Saturday’s Boyle Heights Gay Pride Parade and Festival hope the local event will bring attention to a queer community that has long been a part of the neighborhood.
“I mean, it’s big. It’s the first Pride parade in Boyle Heights,” said Daniel Deza, communications director of Bienestar, one of several Eastside organizations participating in the groundbreaking event.
Saturday’s festivities will begin with a parade from 10am to 1pm that will move East on First Street, from Mariachi Plaza at Boyle to Ross Valencia Community Park at Chicago. Following the parade, the festival will take over the street from Chicago to Soto Street, until 11pm.
Organizers say talks of having a Pride parade and festival had been in the works for almost five years, but plans for this year’s event started in earnest in January. According to local entrepreneur Tonie Juarez, who is the vice president of the pride parade and festival, much of the delay can be blamed on the COVID-19 pandemic.
Last year, Boyle Heights actually had what was billed as the neighborhood’s first annual pride festival, but the organizers of Orgullo Fest are not part of Saturday’s event.
Menswear company Ten Eleven is this year’s celebration major sponsor, and organizers say around 60 different clubs, organizations, and entertainers are to take part in the parade and festival.
And while there will be appearances by well-known international performers like Maribel Guardia, Fedro Serán (who is openly gay) and Iván Tavares, there is an even greater focus on community health organizations that will also be a part of the parade and festival.
“It’s important that organizations come together across L.A. to represent a very intersectional community that we serve,” said Bienestar’s Deza, whose organization works for the health and well-being of Latinx, LGBTQ, and other underserved communities.
The Wall Las Memorias, another c health and wellness organization that recently opened a community hub along the parade’s route on First Street, will be providing free HIV screenings, as well as other resources and services.
“We’re really excited to be out there with the community, with our partners, and reestablish that Boyle Heights is a community for all types of folks,” said Andres Magaña, a community engagement manager from the organization.
Other organizations bringing resources and awareness this Saturday include AltaMed Health Services, TransLatin@ Coalition, Health Net, and the Latino Equality Alliance (LEA). They will all be tabling at the festival after and providing information and resources.
Highlighting access to health care services and providing visibility are also at the center of the work that LEA and its executive director, Eddie Martinez, focus on. The organization is based in Boyle Heights, at Mi Centro, which helps provide services on the Eastside from L.A.’s LGBT Center in Hollywood.
Participants say they are hoping that this year’s parade will help spotlight the different resources that are out there for the Eastside’s queer community.
“It’s important for folks to know that we’re located here in Boyle Heights. We’re part of the community. And these programs and services are free. This is an opportunity to educate our people,” said Martinez.
As Juárez and the organizing committee put in the finishing details for Saturday’s celebration this week, she said she was hopeful of what this event could mean for the Eastside’s LGBTQ youth and community.
“We have to remember that some of our kids are gay and we have a lot of gay organizations here in Boyle Heights, but some of [the youth] are scared because they can’t be themselves at home,” said Juárez.
Aside from the better-known headliners, the festival’s entertainment aims at bridging together Latino and Queer identities that best reflect the community. Performances and entertainment will be provided by L.A. ‘s very own and queer Mariachi Arcoiris, and drag performances by Juan Gabriel, Grupo Firme, and Jenni Rivera impersonators.
The festival will also include local LGBTQ vendors, as well as food, and arts and crafts.