Puerto Ricans held somber vigils, and are preparing to bury many of their own. The mass shooting on June 11 at the Orlando Pulse club has shaken Puerto Rico’s gay community, and shocked the island as a whole.
23 of the Orlando shooting victims were Puerto Rican. Many had moved to Orlando to flee a deep economic crisis, that has sparked the largest exodus from Puerto Rico in decades…
Roberto Padua, the sub-secretary of Puerto Rico’s State Department, stated that: “We have a lot of family members who have lived in the United States for many years but they want their loved ones buried here.”
The Puerto Rico Dept. of State is coordinating much of the transportation, and several human rights organizations are helping the families to cover flight and funeral costs.
“It’s devastating,” said Pedro Julio Serrano, a prominent local gay rights activist, and called it the worst tragedy in the history of Puerto Rico’s LGBT community.
Serrano mourned the fact that so many Puerto Ricans have moved to Orlando, in hopes of a better way of life.
“They thought they were going to have more freedom over there, only to be met with death,” said Serrano. “Neither Orlando, nor Puerto Rico, nor the world are safe places.”
More than 300 people gathered in San Juan on Tuesday, to honor the fallen in Orlando.
Among those attending the vigil was a history teacher, Pedro Catalan, who said the news hit the island particularly hard because of its ties with Orlando, which has one of the largest populations of Puerto Ricans in the U.S.
“This hurt us because we saw ourselves in the shoes of each and every one of them,” he said of the Orlando victims. “We identify with all of them.”