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Paseo Boricua Pageant 2008 -A Historic Celebration in El Barrio

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The Juan Antonio Corretjer Puerto Rican Cultural Center and Vida/SIDA hosted its second annual Paseo Boricua pageant. The Pageant, which was dedicated to Bartolo Hernandez de Jesus, aims to develop transgendered role models within our community and demand that the Puerto Rican/ Latina/o transgender population has a voice and is respected. Only this way can our community begin to address the rampant issues of homophobia and transphobia.

On May 31, Humboldt Park residents and people from throughout the Chicagoland area, attended an event that challenges our community to rethink its paradigm of human sexuality. According to PRCC executive director, José López, “Human sexuality cannot be defined by masculinity or femininity: its profoundly human and spiritual dimensions must ultimately define it.”

Paseo Boricua’s very own “Latin Soul” hosted the Pageant. Each of the contestants represented a town in Puerto Rico. Contestants invested a great deal of time towards community service and a research project focused on different aspects of Puerto Rican culture. Contestants included Nena de Castro (Arecibo), Matty Rosado (Utuado), Shadiamond (Vieques), and Perscilla Figueroa (Lares).

Throughout the event, the crowd was delighted by several special performances. The first was Reina Valentino, a transgendered woman and former employee of Vida/SIDA. Last year’s queen, our first Paseo Boricua Cacica “Jade,” performed the last number of her reign of 2007-2008. She is one of the first transgendered persons to challenge homophobia and transphobia in our community. In prepartion for this year’s Pageant, Jade served as a commendable mentor to each contestant, sharing her experiences and challenges as Paseo Boricua Cacica. Nuestro Tambo, a local Bomba and plena group, was also present and excited the crowd with its rhythmic sound.

Additionally, pageant organizers recognized Ms. Ketty, one of the first trangendered Latina/o activists in Chicago. She was visibly touched when crowned honorary queen of the pageant.

One of the most significant moments came when Mikey Sanchez, the current president of La Casa Puertorriqueña, joined the Puerto Rican Cultural Center and Vida/SIDA to make a historic stand and challenge homophobia and transphobia in the Puerto Rican community. On behalf of the Casa, Sanchez announced that pageant contestants and members of the LGBTQ youth group, Ambiente del Paseo, were invited to participate in the official Downtown parade and perform during the Fiestas Patronales. This is quite a historic development because it will mark the first time transgender female impersonators will perform in the festival.

Sanchez has taken a bold and courageous step by being the first president to open the doors of La Casa to the transgender residents. His actions and deeds speak of a leader who is not afraid to take a stand, not only, against homophobia and transphobia, but also in defense of an individual’s human right to represent and express themselves as they have defined and not how society has defined. It is the epitome of Doña Consuelo Corretjer’s vision and that which has been practiced for over 35 years by the Puerto Rican Cultural Center and Vida/SIDA – “Live and Help to Live”

The event concluded with judges tallying their scores of each of the contestants. In the end Matty Rosado was crowned as the 2008-2009 Cacica (Queen) of Paseo Boricua and Nena de Castro as Princess.

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