Growing Pride in Guatemala City
By Annie Eby
While Pride parades in the U.S. celebrated Friday’s victory of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of marriage equality, activists in most of the world still have an uphill march. Guatemala is among the least tolerant of LGBT rights in the Western hemisphere. But, if Saturday’s Pride Parade is any indication, the country is making gains in that direction. This year’s Guatemala City Pride Parade — which began as a group of 200 people fifteen years ago — was the biggest yet, surpassing last year’s record 14,000 participants.
Marchers in all manner of costume swept Guatemala City’s Avenida 7 with music and dance. A participant who reported heckling and violence in earlier years noted that the attitude of onlookers has changed: “Today they treat you with respect.” A sparse audience reacted with expressions ranging between mild curiosity to amusement to joy.
“You can see that people are confident. They feel really good to be here.”
The parade passed government buildings, gathering momentum at City Hall. According to Oasis, a civil rights group based in Guatemala City, members of the National Civil Police and the Army are some of the worst perpetrators of hate crimes in Guatemala. There are reports of police extortion, brutality, and murder, especially of transvestites, who turned out in large numbers for Saturday’s parade. Violence against the LGBT community is rarely prosecuted as officials turn a blind eye.
A 2012 Vanderbilt University study shows Guatemala is less supportive than most of the hemisphere when it comes to LGBT rights. The study found that 71.2% of Guatemalans believe homosexuals should not be allowed to hold public office. The regional average for Latin America is 59%. Marriage equality is also unpopular. Of people aged 18–25 and 26–35 — groups that tend to show the most support for LGBT issues — only 14% and 11.8%, respectively, are in support of legalizing same-sex marriage. As a point of comparison, the U.S. showed 78% support from a similar age group (18–29 years) in 2014.
Jorge Lopez, director of Oasis, said there is a positive change though. “The real change is what we see here,” he said, looking at the joyous participants. “Because when we were in the closet, no one knew we existed. Now we are out here. You can see that people are confident. They feel really good to be here.”
Lopez admired U.S. President Obama’s “Love is love” speech last Friday. He mused, “I would like to hear something like that from my president one day.”