On Tuesday, February 10th, we attended the monthly of PFLAG (Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) because we wanted to hear about a delegation that is scheduled to go to El Salvador this summer to support sexual diversity groups and LGBT rights. Last summer during Gay Games 9 athletes traveled to Cleveland from El Salvador and Columbia and Margaret W. Wong and Associates sponsored a reception and panel discussion that was very informative. The three people coordinating the evening's PFLAG educational program were Mr. Craig Hoffman, Ms. Rachel Napolitano (from the IRTF), and Dr. Julio Aponte. Quentin Jamieson from PFLAG had set up Skype so we could directly talk to a human rights activist named Nicole in El Salvador but unfortunately there were complications and this did not work out but we enjoyed talking to Ms. Napolitano and Dr. Aponte about their past trips to El Salvador and their experiences there.
Dr. Aponte brought along a very informative booklet that is being distributed in El Salvador called "Diversidad Sexual" which is a good primer for Hispanic people who want to know about LGBT issues. He also brought along a calendar published by a group named Esmules which was formed by LGBT women to help themselves and other people in need.
We learned that in addition to the El Salvadoran athletes who made it here for Gay Games 9 four others wanted to come but could not because just before they were scheduled to leave El Salvador's visa system crashed and so they couldn't get their visas. We also learned that Ms. Mari Carmen Aponte, the U.S. Ambassador to El Salvador, was privately very supportive of the athletes and LGBT issues. In fact, one Sunday she had them over and they played volleyball with the embassy staff.
Dr. Aponte said that "one reason that we are so popular in El Salvador" with human rights activists is that Bishop Barhona came here for Gay Games 9 and he recently met with him for three hours. In the next couple of weeks both Dr. Aponte and Ms. Napolitano will visit El Salvador themselves to be observers in the upcoming election. Both have done this before and Ms. Napolitano told us that they will not be able to stop "bad behavior" but they certainly will document it and report it to the proper officials.
Ms. Napolitano went on to say that the trip planned for July, 2015 will not just be about LGBT issue because she plans to invite local labor and environmental activists to come along too. The goal of the trip is to produce a "transformative experience" that can best be achieved by having all kinds of activists from Cleveland and El Salvador there to interact with each other. In short, they "want to encourage allies by encouraging social movements."
Both Ms. Napolitano and Dr. Aponte agreed that "it is all about relationships."