The Brillantina Project

Pulse Puertorriqueño: An Elegy in Collage

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Juan
Miguel
Milagros
Olga
Manuel
All died yesterday today
and will die again tomorrow

– “Puerto Rican Obituary” by Pedro Pietri[1]

We carry the names of those we have lost as incantations and blessings to anoint communities that are hurting and seeking a space to heal… we say the names we have learned aloud to remember their legacies—to remember their pilgrimage.

– “Sacred Geography: A Queer Latino Theological Response to Orlando” by Vicente Cervantes[2]

Stanley Almodovar III
Amanda Alvear
Oscar A Aracena-Montero
Rodolfo Ayala-Ayala
Antonio Davon Brown[3]

Death doesn’t discriminate / between the sinners / and the saints / it takes and it takes and it takes[4]

Las 49 víctimas inocentes que perdieron la vida el domingo en la masacre de Orlando fueron descritas anoche como mártires de la lucha por la igualdad de los derechos de la comunidad lesbiana, gay, bisexual, transexual y transgénero (LGBTT).[5]

And yet, Latino organizations had to hold a press conference to get the media to acknowledge that the shooting happened not just inside of a LGBT club but on a Latin night too.[6]

Darryl Roman Burt II
Angel L. Candelario-Padro
Juan Chevez-Martinez
Luis Daniel Conde
Cory James Connell[7]

See, I never thought I’d live past twenty / Where I come from some get half as many / Ask anybody why we livin’ fast and we laugh, reach for a flask / We have to make this moment last…[8]

Orlando might have 600,000 Puerto Ricans, but as Steven Thrasher has observed, many mainstream news sources in the United States have ignored or minimized the specificity of the murder victims at Pulse nightclub in Orlando:

the fact that 23 of the 49 persons who were killed by Omar Mateen were Puerto Rican;

that 90% of those killed were Latinas/os, mostly LGBT Latinas/os and their relatives and friends;

that their faces were black, white, and brown, the children of the African diaspora;

that most of them were working class and extremely young;

that, as Juana María Rodríguez has pointed out, they were at Pulse on Latin night, celebrating the life-affirming practices of music and dance and shared culture among friends.[9]

Tevin Eugene Crosby
Deonka Deidra Drayton
Simon Adrian Carrillo Fernandez
Leroy Valentin Fernandez
Mercedez Marisol Flores[10]

“Who lives, / who dies, / who tells your story?[11]

Un hombre que se identificó como un supuesto amante de Omar Seddique Mateen, el pistolero que asesinó a 49 personas en el club Pulse, de Orlando, señaló durante una entrevista con la periodista María Elena Salinas, de Univision Noticias, que el ataque que realizó Mateen se trató de una venganza en contra de los puertorriqueños.[12]

Mateen knew who he went to slaughter. We know this now. New Republic’s egregious oversight gives the impression that a general LGBTQ crowd was targeted. Well, it wasn’t. This is Step One of “the people-of-color erasure”…

May this serve as an outcry to stop allowing this erasure of people-of-color in urgent LGBTQ narratives, where we often find ourselves on the front-lines of heated confrontations fueled by economic and racial marginalization.

The victims of the Pulse Orlando Massacre deserve better than that, and for that matter, so does the rest of the world. Let us be clear as to who we’re speaking of when honoring martyrs, such as they were.[13]

Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz
Juan Ramon Guerrero
Paul Terrell Henry
Frank Hernandez
Miguel Angel Honorato[14]

When are these colonies / gonna rise up?[15]

But better does not mean ideal, particularly in Puerto Rico, a territory that has been subjected to colonial rule by the United States since 1898, where the economy has been in a recession for over a decade and the government is banned from declaring bankruptcy by the United States legislature and Supreme Court.

The U.S. colony has been profoundly affected by the HIV/AIDS epidemic, by drug violence and by the collapse of the social contract.

The constant social, political, and economic crises in Puerto Rico throughout the 20th and now 21st centuries have generated major migration to the United States, facilitated by the fact that all Puerto Ricans hold U.S. citizenship since 1917, which means that we can travel freely between the two locations.

And millions of Puerto Ricans have left the island, many of them LGBT.

Thousands have gone to Orlando, Florida, because of the poverty, violence, lack of opportunities, and in some cases the homophobia they face back home.[16]

Javier Jorge-Reyes
Jason Benjamin Josaphat
Eddie Jamoldroy Justice
Anthony Luis Laureanodisla
Christopher Andrew Leinonen[17]

History has its / eyes on you[18]

Officials said that while it’s still unclear how many of the 23 Puerto Ricans killed were born on the U.S. mainland or had moved there from the island, they expect many of them to be laid to rest in Puerto Rico in the coming days…

Several of the Puerto Ricans killed had moved to the U.S. mainland and settled in Orlando to flee a dire economic crisis that has sparked the largest such exodus in decades.

“They thought they were going to have more freedom over there, only to be met with death,” Serrano said. “Neither Orlando, nor Puerto Rico, nor the world are safe places.”[19]

…if 25 of the 50 perished were Puerto Rican as some sources report, then the Pulse Orlando Massacre was bloodier than Puerto Rico’s most historic tragedies, namely the Río Piedras Massacre of 1935 (4 nationalist party casualties) and the infamous Ponce Massacre of 1937 (21 total deaths). The motivations for the violence incited may have been different, but our people (and now others) have given their lives, be it for independence as a nation or as individuals.[20]

Alejandro Barrios Martinez
Brenda Lee Marquez McCool
Gilberto Ramon Silva Menendez
Kimberly Morris
Akyra Monet Murray[21]

Love is Love is Love is Love is Love is Love is Love is Love.[22]

Like plenty of my friends looking for an escapist respite from the unspeakable shock and horror at the slaughter at Pulse… I tuned into the Tonys to watch Hamilton’s triumphant evening…

As Hamilton is Nuyorican Miranda’s hip-hop love song to both the Caribbean-born forgotten Founding Father and to more recent generations of immigrants, so too was the massacre on Latin Night at Pulse an immigrant story – and a reminder that America, at its heart, is an immigrant story…

[But] It’s not enough to be “young, scrappy, and hungry” when you’re an outsider by definition – because you’re queer, because you’re an immigrant, because you’re not white, because you’re not Christian – and when your very existence is subject to erasure by the forces of hatred.[23]

Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo
Geraldo A. Ortiz-Jimenez
Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera
Joel Rayon Paniagua
Jean Carlos Mendez Perez[24]

Raise a glass to freedom / Something they can never take away / No matter what they tell you / Let’s have another round tonight[25]

“Pulse, and the men and women who work there, have been my family for nearly 15 years. From the beginning, Pulse has served as place of love and acceptance for the LGBTQ community.”[26]

I’ve thought a lot about how Pulse’s Latin Night was just that: an autonomous space safe for Latino queers not in getting shelter from heterosexuals, but from a white gay culture that doesn’t see them.[27]

Search for a list of the names and you’ll see they were our brothers and sisters and cousins, a mostly young Puerto Rican and Latino crowd that jammed into the Pulse Orlando nightclub on Latin Night to watch Boricua entertainers, to drink and dance to salsa and other Latin sounds while enjoying the company of others from the community—a sanctuary.[28]

“It was their favorite place to go because it was where he could be the most himself and where she could see him be himself the most”[29]

Enrique L. Rios, Jr.
Jean C. Nives Rodriguez
Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado
Christopher Joseph Sanfeliz
Yilmary Rodriguez Solivan[30]

 There’s a million things I haven’t done / but just you wait.[31]

Kenya Michaels, a drag queen from Puerto Rico, was scheduled to appear at Pulse on Saturday evening along with another entertainer called Jasmine International, according to Michaels’ Facebook page, which displayed a flyer for the show. Yara Sofia, another Puerto Rican drag queen and reality television personality, said Michaels was safe.

“She got out with manager Neema,” Sofia said on Facebook.[32]

Edward Sotomayor Jr.
Shane Evan Tomlinson
Martin Benitez Torres
Jonathan Antonio Camuy Vega
Juan P. Rivera Velazquez[33]

Look around, / look around, / at how lucky we are / to be alive right now![34]

Outside, Puerto Rico is still a colony, being allowed to drown in debt, to suffer, without the right to file for bankruptcy, to protect itself. Outside, there are more than 100 bills targeting you, your choices, your people, pending in various states…

But inside, it is loud and sexy and on. If you’re lucky, it’s a mixed crowd, muscle Marys and bois and femme fags and butch dykes and genderqueers. If you’re lucky, no one is wearing much clothing, and the dance floor is full. If you’re lucky, they’re playing reggaeton, salsa, and you can move.[35]

Luis S. Vielma
Franky Jimmy Dejesus Velazquez
Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon
Jerald Arthur Wright[36]

Life doesn’t discriminate / between the sinners and the saints / it takes and it takes and it takes / and we keep living anyway / we rise and we fall /  and we break and we make our mistakes / and if there’s a reason I’m still alive / when so many have died…[37]

{My cousin writes a FB status update}:

Puerto Rican news on the island have estimated that almost 25 of the 49 victims were Puerto Rican that were from the island or have Puerto Rican heritage. Officially 15 of the 25 victims were from the island, and they were living here for years or they recently moved because of the situation. As a Gay Puerto Rican, I implore solidarity with the Puerto Rican community, but especially with the Puerto Rican and Latinx LGTBQ+ community that have been the most hurt. Our hearts are broken![38]


Li Yun Alvarado

Li Yun Alvarado is a poet and scholar whose work has appeared in The Acentos Review, PALABRA, A Magazine of Chicano and Latino Literary Art, and others. She is currently the Senior Poetry Editor for Kweli Journal and an alumna of VONA/Voices Writing Workshop and AROHO. www.liyunalvarado.com


[1] Pietri, Pedro. “Puerto Rican Obituary.” Puerto Rican Obituary. 1st edition, Monthly Review Press, 1973. pp 1-11.

[2] Cervantes, Vicente. “Sacred Geography: A Queer Latino Theological Response to Orlando.” Religion Dispatches, Diane Winston, 13 June 2016, http://religiondispatches.org/sacred-geography-a-queer-latino-theological-response-to-orlando/

[3] “Victims’ Names.” City of Orlando. 12 June 2016, www.cityoforlando.net/blog/victims/

[4] Leslie Odom, Jr. as Aaron Burr & the Original Broadway Cast of Hamilton: An American Musical in “Wait for It”

“Wait for it.” Hamilton (Original Broadway Cast Recording), performed by Leslie Odom, Jr., and Original Broadway Cast of Hamilton, Atlantic, 2015.

[5] Alvarado León, Gerardo E. “Puerto Rico lamenta la tragedia en Orlando.” endi, ElNuevoDia.com, 15 junio 2016, 12:00 a.m., http://www.elnuevodia.com/noticias/locales/nota/puertoricolamentalatragediaenorlando-2210604/

[6] Thrasher, Steven W. “LGBT People of Color Refuse to be Erased After Orlando: ‘We Have to Elbow In.’” The Guardian, 18 June 2016, 10:35a.m., https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/jun/18/orlando-latino-lgbt-media-whitewash

[7] “Victims’ Names.” City of Orlando. 12 June 2016, www.cityoforlando.net/blog/victims/

[8] Lin-Manuel Miranda as Alexander Hamilton in “My Shot”

“My Shot.” Hamilton (Original Broadway Cast Recording), performed by Lin-Manuel Miranda, Anthony Ramos, Daveed Diggs, Okieriete Onaodowan, Leslie Odom, Jr., and Original Broadway Cast of Hamilton, Atlantic, 2015.

[9] La Fountain-Stokes, Lawrence. “Queer Puerto Ricans and the Burden of Violence.” Latino USA, The Futuro Media Group, 21 June 2016, http://latinousa.org/2016/06/21/opinion-queer-puerto-ricans-burden-violence/

[10] “Victims’ Names.” City of Orlando. 12 June 2016, www.cityoforlando.net/blog/victims/

[11] Christopher Jackson as George Washington and the Original Broadway Cast of Hamilton: An American Musical in “History Has Its Eyes On You”

“History Has Its Eyes On You.” Hamilton (Original Broadway Cast Recording), performed by Christopher Jackson, Lin-Manuel Miranda & Original Broadway Cast of Hamilton, Atlantic, 2015.

[12] “Venganzas contra los puertorriqueños el ataque de Mateen.” endi, ElNuevoDia.com, 21 junio 2016, 9:36 p.m., http://www.elnuevodia.com/noticias/internacionales/nota/venganzacontralospuertorriquenoselataquedemateen-2213281/

[13] Vázquez, Charlie. “Can We Stop Erasing Latinos from the Orlando Massacre Narrative?” Latino Rebels, 17 June 2016, http://www.latinorebels.com/2016/06/17/can-we-stop-erasing-latinos-from-the-orlando-massacre-narrative/

[14] “Victims’ Names.” City of Orlando. 12 June 2016, www.cityoforlando.net/blog/victims/

[15] Anthony Ramos as John Laurens and the Original Broadway Cast of Hamilton: An American Musical in “My Shot”

“My Shot.” Hamilton (Original Broadway Cast Recording), performed by Lin-Manuel Miranda, Anthony Ramos, Daveed Diggs, Okieriete Onaodowan, Leslie Odom, Jr., and Original Broadway Cast of Hamilton, Atlantic, 2015.

[16] La Fountain-Stokes, Lawrence. “Queer Puerto Ricans and the Burden of Violence.” Latino USA, The Futuro Media Group, 21 June 2016, http://latinousa.org/2016/06/21/opinion-queer-puerto-ricans-burden-violence/

[17] “Victims’ Names.” City of Orlando. 12 June 2016, www.cityoforlando.net/blog/victims/

[18] Christopher Jackson as George Washington, Lin-Manuel Miranda as Alexander Hamilton, and the Original Broadway Cast of Hamilton: An American Musical in “History has its eyes on you”

“History has its eyes on you.” Hamilton (Original Broadway Cast Recording), performed by Christopher Jackson, Lin-Manuel Miranda & Original Broadway Cast of Hamilton, Atlantic, 2015.

[19] Coto, Danica. “Puerto Rico mourns, prepares to bury those killed at club.” U.S. News & World Report, 15 June 2016, 2:55 p.m., www.usnews.com/news/world/articles/2016-06-15/puerto-rico-mourns-prepares-to-bury-those-killed-at-club

[20] Vázquez, Charlie. “¡We’ll Never Forget the Pulse Orlando Massacre!” Sofrito for Your Soul, 14 June 2016, www.sofritoforyoursoul.com/well-never-forget-the-pulse-orlando-massacre/

[21] “Victims’ Names.” City of Orlando. 12 June 2016, www.cityoforlando.net/blog/victims/

[22] Miranda, Lin-Manuel. “My wife’s the reason anything gets done.” Tony Awards 2016 Acceptance Speeches, 70th Annual Tony Awards – Best Score: Hamilton: An American Musical. Tony Award Productions, 12 June 2016, http://www.tonyawards.com/en_US/tonynight/2016_acceptance_speeches.html

[23] Lekus, Ian “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells our Stories.” The North American Congress on Latin America (NACLA), NYU Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies (CLACS), 15 June 2016, www.nacla.org/news/2016/06/15/who-lives-who-dies-who-tells-our-stories

[24] “Victims’ Names.” City of Orlando. 12 June 2016, www.cityoforlando.net/blog/victims/

[25] Lin-Manuel Miranda as Alexander Hamilton, Anthony Ramos as John Laurens, Okieriete Onaodowan as Hercules Mulligan, Daveed Diggs as Marquis de Lafayette, and the Original Broadway Cast of Hamilton: An American Musical in “The Story of Tonight”

“The Story of Tonight.” Hamilton (Original Broadway Cast Recording), performed by Lin-Manuel Miranda, Anthony Ramos, Okieriete Onaodowan, Daveed Diggs & Original Broadway Cast of Hamilton, Atlantic, 2015.

[26] Barbara Poma qtd. in Hjelmgaard

Hjelmgaard, Kim. “Scene of mass shooting more than ‘just another gay club.’” USA Today,

12 June 2016, 7:20 p.m., www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2016/06/12/pulse-more-than-just-another-gay-club/85785762/

[27] Thrasher, Steven W. “LGBT People of Color Refuse to be Erased After Orlando: ‘We Have to Elbow In.’” The Guardian, 18 June 2016, 10:35a.m., https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/jun/18/orlando-latino-lgbt-media-whitewash

[28] Vázquez, Charlie. “¡We’ll Never Forget the Pulse Orlando Massacre!” Sofrito for Your Soul, 14 June 2016, www.sofritoforyoursoul.com/well-never-forget-the-pulse-orlando-massacre/

[29] Wilson Cruz (aka Rickie Vasquez in “My So-Called Life”) qtd. in Moreno

Moreno, Carolina. “Wilson Cruz Says Orlando Shooting Was A ‘Direct Attack On LGBT Latinos.’” The Huffington Post (Latino Voices),14 June 2016, 3:37 p.m., www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/wilson-cruz-says-orlando-shooting-was-a-direct-attack-on-lgbt-latinos_us_575f5fb3e4b0e4fe51438e7b

[30] “Victims’ Names.” City of Orlando. 12 June 2016, www.cityoforlando.net/blog/victims/

[31] Lin-Manuel Miranda as Alexander Hamilton in “Alexander Hamilton”

“Alexander Hamilton.” Hamilton (Original Broadway Cast Recording), performed by Leslie Odom, Jr., Anthony Ramos, Daveed Diggs, Okieriete Onaodowan, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Phillipa Soo, Christopher Jackson & Original Broadway Cast of Hamilton. Atlantic, 2015.

[32] Hjelmgaard, Kim. “Scene of mass shooting more than ‘just another gay club.’” USA Today,

12 June 2016, 7:20 p.m., www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2016/06/12/pulse-more-than-just-another-gay-club/85785762/

[33] “Victims’ Names.” City of Orlando. 12 June 2016, www.cityoforlando.net/blog/victims/

[34] Renée Elise Goldsberry as Angelica Schuyler, Phillipa Soo as Eliza Schuyler, Jasmine Cephas-Jones as Peggy Schuyler, and the Original Broadway Cast of Hamilton: An American Musical in “The Schuyler Sisters”

“The Schuyler Sisters.” Hamilton (Original Broadway Cast Recording), performed by Phillipa Soo, Jasmine Cephas-Jones, Renée Elise Goldsberry, and Original Broadway Cast of Hamilton, Atlantic, 2015.

[35] Torres, Justin. “In praise of Latin Night at the Queer Club.” The Washington Post, 13 June 2016, www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/in-praise-of-latin-night-at-the-queer-club/2016/06/13/e841867e-317b-11e6-95c0-2a6873031302_story.html

[36] “Victims’ Names.” City of Orlando. 12 June 2016, www.cityoforlando.net/blog/victims/

[37] Leslie Odom, Jr. as Aaron Burr & the Original Broadway Cast of Hamilton: An American Musical in “Wait for It”

“Wait for it.” Hamilton (Original Broadway Cast Recording), performed by Leslie Odom, Jr., and Original Broadway Cast of Hamilton, Atlantic, 2015.

[38] “Dear US friends and friends from other countries.” Facebook. 14 June 2016, 8:34 a.m.

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