Luis Fernando Ramirez, of Entre Hermanos, stands before an alter constructed for the victims of the Orlando shooting. Photo by Daniel Person

For Seattle’s Gay Latino Community, Orlando Attack Cuts Extra Deep

A vigil tonight at Entre Hermanos is open to anyone seeking to grieve for the 49 killed on Sunday.

The massacre at a gay nightclub in Orlando last Sunday has implications for a depressing plethora of issues facing society: guns, international terrorism, domestic terrorism, LGBT rights. It’s understandable, then, that another aspect of the attack has fallen by the wayside in our national conversation: The fact that the majority of those killed at Pulse were Latino, reveling at a party devoted to their culture.

Toward the end of another long day Thursday, Luis Fernando Ramirez, interim executive director at Entre Hermanos in the Central District, chatted with Seattle Weekly about how the attack has been felt by the LGBTQ Latino community, a “minority within a minority” that is already often overlooked in American society.

“It is not being mentioned,” Ramirez says. “Most of the media is saying it was an attack against the LGBTQ community, but they haven’t specifically mentioned it was an attack on the Latino community. We’re hurt because it was against the LGBTQ community but deeply hurt because we are Latinos.

“We’re not named as the ones who were attacked.”

For 20 years, Entre Hermanos has provided HIV/AIDs prevention education to Seattle’s gay Latinos. A large portion of its outreach has been done through Noche Latina, a Sunday club night at Neighbours not unlike the event attacked in Orlando.

Ramirez says that his group cancelled Noche Latina on Sunday night for the first time since it began, saying there was nothing to celebrate.

On the ground floor of their offices on 23rd between Spring and Union, a large alter has been erected for the victims of the attack. The tall candles, papel picado and Puerto Rican flag create a strongly Latino motif, but the names of the victims drive the impact on the community home: Yilmary Rodriguez Solivan, Geraldo Ortiz-Jimenez , Martin Benitez Torres … Ramirez notes that the majority of those killed were Latino, most of them Puerto Rican.

The alter will be the centerpiece of a vigil held tonight at 6 p.m., where the public is invited “express their grief how they feel is best,” according to a press release on the event.

Ramirez says that in general, Latino culture still has a large stigma associated with homosexuality; however, he says that since the attacks, the broader Latino community has reached out to Entre Hermanos to show support. In turn, Entre Hermanos has reached out to Muslim groups in Seattle to express solidarity with them.

“We are not fighting hate with hate,” he says. “Hate is not the answer.”

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