Saturday, June 30, 2007

Death to FARC Criminals

I've written about the paradox that is modern Colombia here, here, and here. You've heard this from me before, but I love that country - but that love is a double-edge sword. On the one hand, you've got modern cities that are brimming with art and history, designer shops and gorgeous people. My kind of heaven.

On the other hand, death and violence are so entrenched in the Colombian pysche that paying ransom for a kidnapped loved one -- alive or dead -- has taken on the ennuie of making a withdrawl from an ATM.

On Thursday the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia), a left-wing guerrilla group hell bent on becoming the uber cartel, killed eleven government officials after holding them hostage since 2002.

The man pictured in this post is Raul Reyes, a member of the FARC secretariat. Following the killings of the lawmakers a Colombian daily, El Pais, ran a letter from Reyes expressing the group's condolences for the "tragic deaths" of the 11 individuals while demanding the demilitarization of the region where the deaths took place. The FARC wants control over all of Colombia, but for now they will settle for the western part of the country (as this is a gateway to the Pacific Ocean and the open waters of the drug trade).

Calling Colombian President Alvaro Uribe "stubborn," Reyes goes on to say that the group joins in the world's collective disbelief over Uribe's refusal to facilitate a peaceful prisoner exchange. I dare say that the few people in the world who are closely observing this catastrophe want nothing more than a scorched earth approach when it comes to the guerrillas. For years these people have waged war on civilians -- they are the new narco-terrorists, and they deserve a swift death. Sadly, Colombia's problem has its roots here in the States, the world's leading consumer of cocaine. So long as there is a demand for blow, so long will there be the killing of civilians in Colombia.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Boricuas for Life

I didn't think I was going to go to the Puerto Rican Day Parade this year -- I never go. I went once when I was a kid and don't recall having had a lot of fun. But a few days ago the importance of "el desfile"dawned on me. The parade came up in conversation at work last week and a rather ignorant white coworker just said "I'm getting the hell out of the city this weekend."

It was then that I decided to be the most proud Puerto Rican in New York. By not going, I figured, I was agreeing with that stupid, hurtful comment. Mind you, I don't find those red, white and blue beads that mark this time of year to be tasteful nor do I think overweight young ladies should wear tight jerseys with our island's flag emblazoned on the front. However, at its core, the Puerto Rican Day Parade celebrates the achievements of a community that really wasn't expected to thrive in this country.

I started thinking about my dad, who came from Puerto Rico in the 50s as a teenager to work in the farms of upstate New York. I also thought of my uncles, none of whom finished elementary school, yet all of them put me, and my cousins, through college. I thought about my cousin Roger who grew up down the block from me and tutored me in math -- I think about how he's given his two children classic Spanish names and how they speak Spanish even though they're growing up on Long Island. I thought about my uncle never letting me leave his house without 50, even 100 dollars, when I was in school. He'd just say "did you buy your books yet?"

That got me to thinking about the Puerto Rican teachers at PS1 in Brooklyn who taught me songs about el coqui and who taught me how to dance bomba y plena. Not to mention one Dr. Maldonado who, at the time when Bart Simpson T-shirts saying "Underachiever and Proud of It" were all the rage called a special assembly to remind us that we were worth more than the $5 it cost to sell our potential away.

That's why I showed up on Fifth Avenue with my flag today, proud that the same wherewithall that brought my family to this amazing city is behind this colossal event. Sure, I went to see Ricky Martin (missed him) and J-Lo (pix below), but I also went to be a part of history. So much can change for a people in fifty years. The parade started with 125,000 people who showed up to cheer the floats representing the different towns of Puerto Rico back in the 50s -- today that number is almost a million. And it was all love today on Fifth Avenue. There were gay couples, there were families, there were teenagers. Everyone was well behaved (I left my fashion-critic hat at home today) and I felt like I was at one big family outing.

And I got to see J-Lo for the second year in a row at a pride rally (see last year's pics here). My goal is to take a formal picture with her by next year.

Enjoy the pics. And if you've never been to the Parade, come around next year.

Took the 6 up to the parade. Channeling J-Lo already.

Other queens.


The one day we show love for the po-pos.

Get that money.

Yes, I do want a job in TV and film production, actually.

Ponce is Ponce, everything else is just parking space.

Priceless because she's not even posing for me.

His flag was way bigger than mine.

Jenny from la cuadra showed up on the ill float with strobe lights and plasma screens playing her music videos. Como se dice FIERCE en espanol?

Picture me to her right next year.

Yours truly (l) and Latino James.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Scary Weekend

I didn't think I was going to post tonight, but I won't be going to bed tonight after reading this bit of news on Towleroad: At least five men who claim they were raped at a Dutch gay sex party led authorities to arrest four others, two of whom have confessed to intentionally injecting men with HIV-infected blood. Police also arrested two others, one for his alleged involvement in the rapes, and another for selling a "considerable amount of drugs" including ecstasy and GHB. (More: IHT)
WTF? I can see the headlines now: Beware of Gay Vampire Rapists, Homocidal Pricks, and so forth. It's just so diabolical... so Fox News Channel. I wonder if the O'Reilly Factor will pick this up.
Quick question, though: Didn't the guys at the sex party go there, to well, you know....
Not that anyone deserves a deadly virus shot into them, but the rape accusation is kind of odd. It's like going to the beach and complaining about getting sand in your hair. What are the victims going to say in court? "Your Honor we went to a sex party with the intention of having sex with as many people as possible but instead we got raped."
This is all I need to send my paranoid mind into a tizzy -- my biggest concern this morning was whether James and I live on the pipeline that the West Indian terrorists were planning to blow up -- now I'm thinking about some creepy Dutch dudes collecting blood and injecting other people with it.
I'd rather replay the horrible images of naked fat people and fish carcasses under a gray sky in Gunnison Beach in New Jersey -- that's where James and I went today (for an uncomfortable one-hour visit). We just thought it was gay, we didn't know it was going to be disgusting. Last week was unnecessarily brutal, as I'm sure it was for many social-climbing gay 20-somethings, can't we just have one weekend of sunshine and good news?

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Marble Collegiate Church: Come Prai$e the Lord

Two years ago James and I were invited by a friend to attend a service at Marble Collegiate Church, one of the oldest reformed churches here in the city. As someone who was raised as a Jehovah's Witness, I was raised to believe that an even bigger sin than my latent faggotry would be to embrace another religion. When I came out, of both the closet and my congregation, I knew that while my Sunday mornings would now be free, my relationship with God would remain the same. Having visited other churches, because a friend invited me or because it's a holiday tradition with James' family, I'm blown away by the emptiness I feel at these services.

So what does this have to do with Brian Williams? Well, he's speaking at Marble Collegiate Church on Tuesday -- you can hear his take on the war in Iraq and the Virginia Tech shootings for $20. And that proves the point I've been making to James ever since we set foot in Marble Collegiate: they're a shameless money grubbing bunch.
I remember the sermon we heard by Dr. Arthur Caliandro, here are the words that stood out in my mind: "I was invited to a has $10,000?...I know someone here does....anyone have $10,000?....we need a new..." Mind you, I was still seething from having to argue with some "elite" members of the church who were asked to move from their usual Sunday seats to accomodate my friend in a wheelchair. Just before the fundraiser - er, service- began, someone approached my friend and offered her a brochure on the history of the church's stained glass windows. That made waking up at 8am sooo worthwhile.
I've tried to move past my unpleasant experience with the MCC out of respect for my friend, but this ad just brought all of those negative feelings back.
In my new life, one that has removed the public element from my faith, I've ruled out organized religion as a good vehicle for me. So of course I'm bound to compare experiences in other churches to my time with the JWs. And while the JWs have their own issues to work out, I can't call them dishonest or money hungry. The JWs don't pass around collection plates during service (that's what donation boxes are for) they never ask for money from the pulpit (though the virtues of generosity are, of course, lauded) and having seen it time and again in Kingdom Halls and stadiums (during yearly conventions) space is gladly made for the disabled. Mind you, I'll be the first to say that I have my questions and doubts about many of the religious practices I once embraced, but I never doubted the honesty of the people around me.

Not so with the folks I encountered at MMC. Sure, they welcome gays, but everyone knows its bad business to turn away the pink dollar.

If anyone plunks down $20 for Tuesday's gabfest with cutie Brian Williams let me know how it goes.