On Their Shoulders We Stand

Today, I write about Sylvia Rivera, Margarita Lopez and Pedro Peters Maldonado
On Their Shoulders We Stand
Concejal Rosie Méndez. Foto Twitter.

As we approach the 59th Annual Puerto Rican Day Parade and celebrate the Board’s vision to honor LGBT rights activists, it is important for me to highlight three LGBTRicans instrumental in laying the foundation for our rights. They broke glass ceilings and opened doors for many, including me.

Their work has enabled us to be accepted for who we are and what we do and not be shunned because of our sexual orientation. I consider myself incredibly fortunate that I met and worked with these exceptional individuals.

Today, I write about Sylvia Rivera, Margarita Lopez and Pedro Peters Maldonado. These LGBTRican leaders were active in many political fronts and we owe them a debt of gratitude. We can only humbly thank them for their struggles and sacrifices.

While the Stonewall Inn is internationally recognized as the birthplace of the Gay Civil Rights movement, many outside of that movement do not know that Sylvia Rivera (July 2, 1951 – February 19, 2002), a Puerto Rican Transgender woman, was at the forefront fighting for our rights.  Sylvia was present in June of 1969 when the gay community fought back against the police raids at the Stonewall Inn commonly known as the Stonewall Riots and igniting what is now our modern gay civil rights movement. Sylvia fought against the Vietnam War and was a member of the Gay Liberation Front, Gay Activists Alliance and the New York City Chapter of the Young Lords Party.

Margarita Lopez, born and raised in Rio Piedras, migrated to NYC in the 1980’s. In PR she was a founding member of Mujer Integrate Ahora, Frente Feminista por la Liberacion Humana, Comunidad de Orgullo Gay and worked for the independence of PR at a political time when engaging in these activities could land you in jail or worse.  In NYC, Margarita became active in the LES Joint Planning Council helping create two land trusts, a credit union and hundreds of affordable low income cooperatives. In 1997, she was the first Out Puerto Rican Lesbian elected to office in the United States serving eight distinguished years in the New York City Council. It took PR an additional 15 years to elect its first openly gay elected official, Pedro Peters Maldonado, to San Juan’s City Council in 2012.

On this occasion, I thank them all, especially Sylvia, Margarita and Pedro Peters, for their relentless determination and advocacy to ensure our rights.

(Rosie Mendez, New York City Councilwoman for District 2)