By Leo Romo
Alberto Jimenez, a 33-year-old openly gay Saginaw Latino, never planned to be an equality activist, but now everyone thinks otherwise. He created an “Equality” float with LGBT and Mexican symbols for Saginaw’s 34th Cinco de Mayo Parade May 4. While he made parade floats for his family in the past, the equality float was different.
The parade’s theme – Viva La Voz – means “Long live the voice” in English, so Jimenez wanted his “voice” to be heard. Well, everybody heard him loud and clear May 4.
“It’s time for LGBT Latinos to stand firm and to keep pushing forward. Our struggles have been long and we never gave up. We stand up and are proud for our culture and our LGBT community,” said Jimenez.
His equality float was a 6-foot rainbow-colored shape of Michigan with the word “Equality” in the center, riding atop a 16 foot trailer. He hung PFLAG Tri-Cities and Perceptions banners – his LGBT sponsors – on the sides and raised rainbow, Mexican and American flags on poles. He wore appropriately themed apparel – a green poncho with rainbow stripes along with matching lime shoes. Jimenez celebrated his Mexican culture and his sexual orientation comfortably and without shame. He was a wonderful role model for young gay Latinos – no – for anybody watching.
What was the reaction from the mostly Mexican-Americans who watched the parade? They loved it. If people disapproved, then they remained silent. Most people waved and smiled as the rainbow float passed, and Jimenez’s friends distributed candy and PFLAG and Perceptions information cards along the route. Many thanked him personally for being honest about himself and they also showed support for LGBT equality. In fact, La Union Mexicana Civica (aka Civica), the parade’s sponsor and Saginaw’s oldest Mexican American organization, approved Jimenez’s equality float.
According to the Pew Hispanic Center, more Latinos now favor gay marriage. It seems Saginaw Latinos reflect the new reality, especially with the younger generation. As a part of that generation Jimenez said, “I want our rainbow family to be able to live with the right to marry and the right to work in any career with passion and without discrimination.”
The equality float took 2nd place and it was the first LGBT-themed float in the parade’s 34-year history. It was likely the first LGBT-themed parade float in Saginaw. Yes, times are changing. A Cesar Chavez quote is appropriate and captures this change, “Preservation of one’s own culture does not require contempt or disrespect for other cultures.”