Among the things I never expected out of my Peace Corps service are the following: a chicken shawarma restaurant, almost constant WiFi access, and LGBTIQ Pride. As much as I appreciate the chicken shawarma and WiFi, attending Nicaragua’s Pride March in Managua was an empowering, único experience.
Unlike Pride in the U.S., there were no half naked men oiled up, rows of corporate sponsored booths selling over-priced water bottles, or straight people celebrating Coachella’s after party.
We started at el Colegio Teresiano and marched about 1 mile until Metrocentro. In that 1 mile span, rainbow flags were visible from every viewpoint, Ariana Grande/Cher/”I Will Survive” blasted from speakers mounted on flatbed trucks, and drag queens lined the streets. Drum lines reminiscent of Semana Santa marched in sync while several LGBTQ organizations yelled chants my slow ears could not distinguish. Buses and taxis drove carefully past us, an arm’s length away with countless staring passengers. When we got to Metrocentro, there was only one street vendor selling food next to another vendor selling beer, water, and soda.
At the end of the march was a small stage with a sign that said, “Existimos, resistimos, y celebramos.” As a queer woman, seeing the word existimos and being surrounded by other LGBTIQ individuals was an incredibly empowering experience that might have made me tear up. Sometimes, I still can’t believe that I’m out of the closet and openly identify as queer. When you have spent more than half of your life terrified that someone will find out your secret or (worse) you will have to settle for a man, these are the moments that make you very happy that your existence is valid. What made this experience special to me was the lack of corporate sponsors and suspiciously high numbers of straight couples. It did not feel like LGBTIQ identities were being exploited for profit or made to be trendy by people who are terrified that they will get hit on by someone of the same gender. It felt like a genuine, authentic demonstration of the resilience and solidarity of the LGBTIQ community.
Unfortunately, Managua Pride is also different from the U.S. in that the party ended at 7pm… on a Tuesday night. Despite that, thank you, Managua Pride for exceeding my expectations of my Peace Corps service and for making a lil’ queer feel at home-oh.