Chicago's LGBT community held a vigil on Sunday Nov. 22 for Jorge Steven Lopez Mercado, the 19-year-old who was murdered in Puerto Rico.
It began with a peace walk starting at the corner of Division and California, and ended with a candlelight vigil at the Humboldt Park Boat House.
Chicago was one of more than 20 cities across the nation to partake in candlelight vigils for Lopez. Chicago's vigil had several hundred people.
A variety of people participated in the vigil, including LGBT community leaders and elected officials. They were present to honor Lopez and solemnly call for an end to hate crimes.
"We want it to remember and honor Jorge, and remember every other victim of a hate crime," said one of the organizers, Ed Negron. "Yeah, there's going to be some messages of what we want to do to end it, but it's not a City Hall-type of protest. We want to remember our fallen brothers and sisters."
Representatives from Amigas Latinas, UNID@S, Young Women's Empowerment Project, La Casa Norte, Orgullo en Accion, Vida/SIDA, Boricua PRIDE and the Association of Latino Men for Action ( ALMA ) were at the event, among others.
Many Latino figures in the community were responsible for bringing the event together.
The main organizers were Juan Calderon of VIDA/SIDA; Jorge Felix of Boricua PRIDE; Ruben D. Feliciano of ALMA and Boricua PRIDE; and Ed Negron of Orgullo en Accion.
Hilda Frontany of Boricua PRIDE, and Orgullo's Nilsa Irizarry and Negron provided introductory remarks. Rev. Dr. Pedro J. Windsor-Garcia of La Capilla Del Barrio Church led a prayer.
Jose Lopez of the Puerto Rican Community Center and Juan Calderon of VIDA/SIDA provided a historial/local community perspective while Felix read a message from Puerto Rico.
Members of the at-large LGBTQ community also spoke, including Gender JUST's Yasmin Nair ( who also writes for Windy City Times ) , Cook County State's Attorney LGBTQ Liaison Vernita Gray. City of Chicago Commission on Human Relations' Bill Greaves lent a policy/human-rights perspective.
In addition, politicians slated to speak included Aldermen Roberto Maldonado, Manny Flores and Rey Colon; state Reps. Cynthia Soto, Toni Berrios and Greg Harris ( who is openly gay ) ; and state Sens. Willie Delgado and Iris Martinez.
"I sent an e-mail out Tuesday morning to some friends saying that we should try to put something together … and all of a sudden this huge thing was created. There's this huge feeling of community in Chicago. I'm blessed and honored to be a part of it," Negron told Windy City Times.
"For the Latino gay and lesbian community here in Chicago this is a pretty major event. The number of e-mails I've received from folks [ show ] there's outrage and a need for immediate response," said LGBT activist Robert Castillo.
Other events across the nation attracted thousands of people. New York's event had over 2,229 confirmed guests on Facebook, and there were vigils in other states ranging from California to Alaska. Vigils and protests have also occurred in Puerto Rico.
"A big thank you to Chicago and its LGBT people," said Christopher Pagan, a reporter in Puerto Rico who helped to break the story to Windy City Times. "I have received many e-mails from that city, and it's no longer the Windy City to me. If anything, it's warm with love."