Organizer Ready for His Third Annual Latino Gay Pride

Mario Canedo is a busy man. Between working for the Good Samaritan Project, working for a radio station, and coordinating the now- annual Latino Gay Pride festival, he rarely has a chance to relax. “I never sleep,” he says.
The third annual Orgullo Latino 2011, also known as Latino Gay Pride, will be from 2 to 9 p.m. Sept. 10 at Hyde Park, 37th Street and Gillham Road, in Kansas City, Mo. The alcohol-free event is also free of charge.
Canedo says, “I want a Latino Gay Pride because I want to give my community a space to have fun, to have entertainment, to have our culture at the forefront and to demonstrate what it is to be a gay Latino.
“People often think that by coordinating this event, I am wanting to separate the gay community.”
But Canedo says his intention is just the opposite: “I want this event to be all-inclusive. Anyone can come, not just Latinos, not just gays -- everyone.”
Music will be part of the festival, of course, and Canedo is particularly excited for the two local Latino bands on the bill.
“We will have two local music acts. One is called MRRA -- it is one male and one female. They sing pop in Spanish, just like you hear in English. And Callejeros de le Cumbia -- they perform a style called cumbia.” Cumbia is a popular style of music and dance in Latin America.
Alongside the musical performances will be activities such as a mechanical bull, a rock-climbing wall, a bounce house for children, a DJ and food. People can bring blankets and chairs if they would like.
Not surprisingly, there will be drag queens, too.
“You can’t seem to have a Gay Pride without them. They are an inseparable part of the gay community. We will of course have drag Latinas.”
Perhaps the most important thing to Canedo regarding Latino Gay Pride is its emphasis on education.
“HIV or AIDS is affecting the Hispanic community in the U.S., and they need to be informed,” he said.
Several booths at Latino Gay Pride will provide free HIV testing.
Canedo is the community prevention specialist, specifically with the gay Latino community, for the Good Samaritan Project, which helps provide services and education on HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.
“Sadly, the number keeps growing, especially in the gay community, which is why I find it to be so important that our Latino Gay Pride have a special focus on educating people about HIV and offering free testing,” he said.
Canedo has been working hard with volunteers to make this Latino Gay Pride the biggest one yet.
“I’m really grateful for the people who have helped me with this, to keep this event completely free. The smallest donations build up as time goes by. Every little bit helps.”
Each event has been bigger than the last. “It’s like a baby -- you watch it grow throughout the years.”
“This is the third one. When we started, we had three tables and 10 people, and now look at it. It’s gigantic.”
Canedo says that he thinks one of the reasons for the low turnout in Latino Gay Pride’s first year is that “There are very few gay Latinos in Kansas City who are out of the closet.”
Gay issues are barely talked about in the Hispanic community, he said. “I feel like a lot of people are afraid to show up because it is still taboo in this community, and many are scared to be pinned as gay if they show up.”
This is one of the reasons why Canedo tries to make this event as inclusive as possible. “You don’t have to be gay to have fun here,” he said. “I try to include a little bit of everything, so everyone can enjoy themselves, and I do hope that people feel welcome.”
The growing attendance alone is a testament to Canedo’s goal of making people feel welcome.
“I want people to educate themselves, so that they will understand that it isn’t bad to be a gay person in this world. I want people in the Hispanic community to know that.”
Canedo stresses the importance of the role of the community in Latino Gay Pride. Because he relies on sponsors and donations, “It isn’t completely necessary to spend a ton of money getting huge musical acts, as nice as that would be. It isn’t completely necessary. I like to keep it simple.”
Instead, he says, “What is necessary is that the community comes together to create a positive gathering where everyone can be educated and entertained. I’m really happy, because it all starts with an idea, and that was over three years ago.”
In addition to the performances featured until 9 p.m., there will also be a Latino Gay Pride After-Party at 10 p.m., featuring
Fedro, a popular 25-year-old, openly gay performer from Mexico.
Fedro, Canedo said, is the main act people seem most excited about. The performer got third place in Mexico’s inaugural season of the TV show Viva el Sueño!, a Spanish singing competition similar to The Voice and American Idol.
The after-party will take place at El Chalateco Night Club, 1005 Osage Ave., in Kansas City, Kan. Unlike the rest of Latino Gay Pride, the after-party has a $10 entrance fee and you must be at least 18 years old to enter.

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