Culture

Embrace the rainbow

Taos Pride celebrates life, love and liberty this weekend

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Two thousand miles away and five decades ago, a police raid of New York City’s gay bar, the Stonewall Inn, spurred nights of galvanizing riots that would dramatically and permanently alter the landscape for LGBT citizens across the country. No longer easily ignored or marginalized, the gay community rose up with a united voice and an unwavering message, saying, “We count; we matter; we are.”

The Stonewall Inn, now a National Historic Landmark, and the adjoining Stonewall National Monument are profound reminders of the journey beyond those dark nights and into the sunny days of acceptance and equality. Perhaps the most enduring legacy, however, lives in the Pride events that take place annually around the world.

This weekend, Taos Pride returns with a schedule of activities that have come to be associated with good-natured revelry, merriment and a show of solidarity throughout town.

Beginning today (Aug. 10), the festival will host its first international and regional-local film festival at Taos Community Auditorium, 145 Paseo del Pueblo Norte. Fourteen short films, selected from more than 1,000 entries, will be featured beginning at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $6 at the Taos Center for the Arts, 133 Paseo del Pueblo Norte.

Enrico Trujillo, a board member of Taos Pride and the curator of the film festival, said, “We’re super excited about the content and quality of the entries – both dramatic and comedic – and focused about equally on transgender, lesbian and gay-centric themes.” Hoping to make this a permanent addition to the Taos Pride weekend, he noted that “we’ll judge the audience response and hopefully expand it going forward.”

Friday (Aug. 11) at 4 p.m. will see return performances by Santa Fe artist Bella Gigante and Albuquerque’s Joanna Montoya in the Adobe Bar at the Taos Inn, 125 Paseo del Pueblo Norte. Admission for all is free.

In an April 2013 interview with the Santa Fe Reporter, Gigante described herself as “a big blonde bombshell who’s larger than life. She’s my own creation — a combination of Marilyn Monroe, Bette Midler and Jayne Mansfield with a soul twist,” which can only guarantee a sexy, cheeky performance.

Montoya, known for her soulful voice and mastery of mariachi and ranchera classics, will be the perfect foil in what promises to be a peerless soiree in the late afternoon.

The crown-jewel day of the festival, however, is Saturday (Aug. 12), when Taos Pride President Yavanne Jaramillo will pull out all the stops with a morning-to-late-night calendar of events.

Jaramillo, who will be stepping down as Taos Pride president after this year’s festival, has volunteered on its committee since its inception and has served as its executive officer for the last three years. The artist, furniture maker, foster parent, Special Olympics organizer and full-time education assistant at Taos Integrated School for the Arts is ready to hand over the reins to her vice president, Katy Ballard. But, before she leaves, “I’m sending myself off with one hell of a bang, with a festival that I think is bigger and better than anything we’ve done before,” Jaramillo said.

The day will start with the fourth annual Taos Pride Parade, running along Paseo del Pueblo between Albright Street and Kit Carson Park, starting at 11 a.m.

“We’re expecting an amazing diversity of marchers, including those from the St. James Episcopal Church’s interdenominational committee,” she noted with surprise and pleasure. “And the parade is open to anyone; come early to the Taos County Courthouse parking lot on Albright Street if you want to help out or march.”

Further, she said, “The community sponsors have been amazingly generous, as well, donating rooms to our traveling performers, providing us with vehicles for the parade and giving enormous support for our silent auction with a great variety of donated items.”

Immediately following the parade, Pride Fest in the Park will take place from noon until 5 p.m. at Kit Carson Park, 211 Paseo del Pueblo Norte. This event is free and open to all.

“Emcee Dahlia T. Stratton will be on hand with over 20 performances scheduled for the afternoon, including flamenco, mariachi and burlesque shows, and with our headliner, David Hernandez,” Jaramillo said.

Hernandez, who hails from Los Angeles, California, is a pop star and human rights advocate who was a finalist in the seventh season of television’s “American Idol.” His celebrity following and humanitarian work make him a noteworthy addition to the day’s lineup. “We’re so excited he agreed to be part of our celebration,” Jaramillo said.

Taos Pride is also introducing another “first” beyond the film festival: a pet parade. “Pets have always been such an important part of our organization, from our fundraising dog washes and pet calendars to accompanying us at our events, so we wanted to have a special celebration for them, too,” Trujillo said.

Ribbons will be awarded to the most fabulously dressed critters in such categories as best of show, best use of rainbow, most well-behaved and most unusual. Everyone is encouraged to register their pet early and then head to the park stage around 2 p.m., when the parade begins.

In addition to the silent auction, the family-friendly event will also have face painting, a food court featuring such goodies as barbecue and noodles, plus an array of vendors selling local crafts. Budweiser will be sponsoring a beer garden for the adult crowd.

Take a nap if you’re tired from the day’s activities, then head out to The Alley Cantina Saturday night. At 9 p.m., New Mexico’s premier drag show and dance party takes over. Dahlia Rico-Stratton and her posse, the House of Stratton, will be on hand to get the night started. DJ Scoobie will be rocking the house until the wee hours. Admission is $10 at the door for the 21-and-older crowd. The Alley Cantina is located just off the northwest corner of Taos Plaza on Teresina Lane.

According to the organization’s website, “Taos Pride was launched seven years ago by Robert Quintana because he wanted to throw Taos a great big and fabulous party.” Sadly, Quintana passed away two weeks before the Pride’s launch. “It is his vision and joy that lives on through the organization and annual events,” the mission statement continues.

That vision and joy are evident in all facets of the festival. “Taos Pride creates community events to celebrate diversity, increase awareness and provide a safe place to be exactly who you are,” said Jaramillo, noting that the wide array of the weekend’s performers was selected to augment and strengthen this commitment.

As Ballard stands ready to assume leadership of Taos Pride, she commended the dedication of Jaramillo and the board members. “Yavanne’s enthusiasm is contagious and I have some big shoes to fill, keeping that energy level going, getting people excited and continuing to engage the community in this effort,” she said.

“Though Taos Pride doesn’t need to be more than it already is,” Ballard said, “we hope people recognize this is not just about flying a rainbow. It’s about awareness, helping our teenage community and now, more than ever, remembering our history.”

For further information about Taos Pride and a complete lineup of the weekend’s events, visit taospride.org.

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