In 2012 we said a few very happy hellos and more than one sad goodbye. One of the saddest occurred when superstar singer Jenni Rivera, along with several friends and members of her team, died in an airplane accident Dec. 9, leaving a lot of Latinas and LGBT fans and friends heartbroken.
Rivera was one of a kind. When so many girls of all ethnicities are groomed to think of themselves as future arm candy and competitors to one another, Rivera sent a message that women could do anything professionally. She wasn’t afraid to take a swig of tequila onstage or to stand up for others. Rivera used her tremendous platform to to call attention to domestic violence, bullying of LGBT youth, anti-immigrant legislation, and other issues. She was one of the Latino celebrities who joined GLAAD’s Spirit Day campaign and spoke out against bullying and wore purple at the Billboards onstage. We can only imagine how many more minds she would have opened if she’d had a few more years on earth.
This year, world-renowned Costa Rican-born Mexican singer Chavela Vargas died at 93. She came out as a lesbian at the age of 81. At 14, Vargas left her native Costa Rica and moved to Mexico to pursue musical career opportunities. There she challenged mainstream gender norms and was famous for her public liaisons with women, including a brief affair with painter Frida Kahlo. Notably, she purposely did not change the gender in songs written by Mexico's most famous male songwriters.
We also lost Lupe Ontiveros, the respected actress and advocate for LGBT, HIV/AIDS, labor, women's education and health issues, as well as an outspoken advocate against typecasting in the entertainment industry.
Along with the sad events, we also lived some positive moments, including the coming out of Puerto Rican boxer Orlando Cruz. Cruz took advantage of the media spotlight to speak about his orientation and in a way that was positive and full of pride. His mother also joined him in many interviews, including one on Telemundo newsmagazine Al Rojo Vivo, in which she spoke of his courage in coming out.
This year in Spanish-language media we saw some other welcome firsts, including an openly gay contestant, Samy Suárez, on the popular dance show Mira Quien Baila on Univision. We saw strong Latino celebrity support of Spirit Day, including the cast of El Gordo y la Flaca, led by Rodner Figueroa.
We saw lots of good coverage of LGBT people and issues in television and in Spanish-language newspapers and online, including Huffington Post Voces, which published a number of great stories and columns. On Terra.com, welcomed an openly transgender columnist, Arianna Inurritegui-Lint. And on Telemundo’s news and entertainment website, HolaCiudad.com, openly lesbian Cary Tabares has a regular blog called “Puente de Orgullo”.
So, even as we bid sad goodbye to some, so too do we embrace optimism for a future that includes more acceptance along with great media coverage that makes everyone feel not just included but truly valued.