Kansas City will celebrate its second annual Latino Pride from 2 to 8 p.m. on Sept. 11 at Washington Square Park, Pershing Road and Grand Boulevard, Kansas City, Mo. The Latino Pride festival is joined by the campaign for National Latino AIDS Awareness Day (Oct. 15).

There will be music, dancing and live performances with food and non-alcoholic drink. This festival is in support of the Kansas City Good Samaritan Project, and the best part is that it’s free of charge.

The director of Kansas City’s festival is Mario Canedo. As I was preparing to talk to Mario about this event, a few questions came to mind: Why a Latino Gay Pride? Which brings up another question: Why an African American Gay Pride?

Mario was quick to answer: “Why not?” The commonality of language and culture makes it a perfect way to share news about HIV and AIDS as well as stressing the need for safe-sex practices. This festival allows for that conversation in a language that is unambiguous.

Mario came to Kansas City 11 years ago from Juarez, Mexico, after hearing about the city from a friend who had relocated here. The opportunity to have his own radio program on La Super X (1250 AM) was the vehicle to leave Mexico for the United States.

Speaking almost no English, he found his way. Now he does his show A La Cama con Canedo, which roughly translates as “In Bed with Canedo” from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. on weeknights. Quite a program name considering his Catholic background and the usual hushed conversations that most Spanish-speaking people use when the topic is sex.

Mario wasn’t always a radio host. He worked construction for a time, cleaned houses, had a gig as a clown and for a time stripped.

“Yes,” he says with a big grin and a deep laugh. “I was in much better shape back then. I want to make a difference for Latin people in Kansas City. I want to make sure they are aware they need to be tested for HIV, and I am happy that I am able to do this.”

“Most Latino men who are gay or bisexual aren’t in the closet. They are in the basement.” One's sexuality is not discussed, so many Latino men who do have sex with other men keep their sexuality quiet. “Getting tested is the key, and using condoms needs to be discussed.”

When I asked about his sexuality, he smiled and said, “It’s a small part of a very large puzzle. I don’t share my sexuality with anyone. It’s between me and who I sleep with. I want to be known as a man, not a gay man, just a man.” Fair answer.

I asked Mario to look down the road a few years and tell me where he thought he’d be.

“Probably back in Mazatlan, Mexico. Back home. Back to my family.” Gesturing to his heart, he smiled and said, “Mexicans always want to go home. That’s where the heart is.”

Curative has announced that it is currently providing COVID-19 no-cost testing in your area at Metropolitan Community College.

Stay safe and get tested!

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Photo by Alonso Reyes on Unsplash

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