HF Presents FUERZA Fest: First-Ever Latino LGBTQ Festival in New York City
New York City’s LGBTQ Latino community celebrated the first-ever Latino LGBTQ Festival, also known as FUERZAfest, which ran from May 11 to May 22, 2016 at the Julia de Burgos Performance and Arts Center (JdBPAC) in El Barrio. Amid an increase in anti-LGBTQ hate crimes and in a city where 40 percent of homeless youth are LGBTQ, the Hispanic Federation’s FUERZAfest offered an opportunity to address critical issues facing LGBTQ Latinos in New York.
The history and struggles of the LGBTQ community, as well as the current challenges the community faces, served as a backdrop for the program. The Festival’s photography exhibit, Pride, Activism, Survival, transported audiences to the 1990s, when hate crimes were common, sexual preferences and identity were hidden from public view and the HIV/AIDS crisis claimed thousands of Latino lives.
Beyond several workshops, screenings of award-winning films such as Mala Mala and Made in Bangkok, and the NYC debuts of films like Viva and Romeo y Romeo, FUERZAfest gave emerging writers and actors a forum to explore universal LGBTQ issues through its theater competition. Six never-before-seen one-act plays competed for a $6,000 prize. The theater companies Arketipo and Corezón earned accolades from the judges for their respective plays Mi Pecado Favorito and Olvidadas, which shared the FUERZA Award for best production. Pablo García Gámez (Olvidadas) won the Abniel Marat Award for Best Playwright. Rosie Berrido (Olvidadas) won for Best Actress and Roberto D’ Jesus (Mi Pecado Favorito) for Best Actor.
Several celebrities participated in FUERZAfest including Modesto Lacén (Telemundo’s La esclava blanca and Celia); Jeymy Osorio and Willie Denton (Telemundo’s Celia); Lauren Velez (Dexter); and Lee Tergensen, (Defiance and Oz). Legendary artist Barbra Herr closed the festival with her heart-wrenching one-woman cabaret show, I'm Still Herr!.
Politics wasn’t far from the minds of many presenters. Several of the speakers throughout the 12-day event, including LGBT activist Pedro Julio Serrano and award-winning filmmaker and director Luis Caballero pointed to recent anti-LGBTQ legislation in places such as North Carolina as symptomatic of the resilience of bigotry and discrimination.
“FUERZAfest was a historic happening in the Latino community,” said José Calderón, President of the Hispanic Federation. “Latino LGBTQ voices came out in full force to showcase their creativity and to reaffirm their place in the broader Latino community. I believe the success of FUERZAfest shows the need and hunger for these kinds of events. We are proud of its success and incredibly excited about making it a regular event for Hispanic Federation.”