Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Hate Crimes and The Latino Community

A small municipality in Puerto Rico known as Corozal has been rocked by the violent murder of Juan Antonio Santiago Ocasio, aka Ashley. Juan Antonio’s body was found butchered to death on April 19th 2010. The fact that the body had been stabbed 14 times may hold a clue as to whether this was, as it seems, a hate crime. Juan Antonio was a transgendered female, better known as Ashley, a well known hair stylist in the community. Although authorities believe the murder may have taken place in the bathroom of the victims home, the body was found devoid of clothing in the kitchen. It was a horrible, unbelievably blood filled scene. There have been no arrests and the authorities do not have a suspect as of yet.

There has been an alarming rise in hate crimes against the LGBT community. The body of Amanda Gonzalez- Andujar, 29 of Queens, New York was found in her bed , strangled to death on march 30th of this year. The authorities have arrested a suspect in the murder. Someone whom Ms. Gonzalez may have met online. Even more alarming is the fact that not only were the victims transgendered as in the case of Ashley Santiago Ocasio, but that the victims have been Hispanic. It seems these crimes are being committed by those who seem to think that being transgendered makes for an easy target, much in the way criminals prey on women and the elderly. Being transgendered has become in the Hispanic community, an excuse amongst criminals for the authorities. The tired excuse of “ I thought he was a woman” is one that I hope will not pull any weight with the Courts. Anyone committing such violent murders must be held accountable for their actions to the fullest extent of the law. Now that there is a Federal Hate Crime law ( The Mathew Sheppard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crime law) we must make sure that these murderers be tried under its full weight.

It is my hope that anyone reading this, speak out against not only hate crimes, but against hate in general directed to anyone, be they gay, lesbian, transgendered, straight. It is appalling to me that so many of my fellow Hispanics still believe in old terms of bigotry and ignorance, that has prevailed over generations. Times have changed and continue to change, unfortunately homophobia is not so easily erased. The Latino community has to step up to bat and not buy into age old stereotypes. Too often homophobia, like any hate begins as” a joke”. Many think its “cool” to yell faggot at someone when they get mad. It’s not cool. It’s hurtful. Not only to the LGBT community but to the person it is directed at, whether they are gay or straight. The very fact that these murders have within the Latino community lately is an indication that something must be done. It doesn’t help to just read about it. We have to write, call, email, and meet with what ever political official that can ensure change and justice. This was the case with Super Xclusivo, a Puerto Rico based show that reluctantly apologized last week for calling Ricky Martin a “pato”. The word means faggot in Spanish. Super Xclusivo would be wise to remember that the lives of its viewers and its targets are not the puppets it uses in its skits. It is exactly that mentality that breeds contempt for many in the LGBT community. Its time to let go of the “machismo mentality” and act like adults.. Maybe then the next generation will become more concerned with the real issues in our communities, and not the sexual orientation of an individual.

We won’t succeed in making the murders of Amanda Gonzalez-Andujar, or Ashley Santiago Ocasio the last, but we sure as hell can try.

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