Neither heavy rain nor Friday rush-hour traffic could stop the hundreds of people who marched last Friday from the University of Costa Rica to Mall San Pedro campaigning for equal rights. The mall has faced several allegations of sexual discrimination this year.
“It started three months ago when two of my gay friends were kicked out for holding hands,” explained 20-year-old participant Luis Carrión. “The mall has a history of humiliating people because of their sexual orientation.”
While Friday was the first time a demonstration like this has targeted Mall San Pedro, it was the 10th such demonstration organized by a group known as La Ruta del Beso Diverso (Path of the Diverse Kiss), or Beso Diverso for short. The group’s slogan is “Ser diferente no es indecente” (“Being different isn’t indecent”).
Beso Diverso has been campaigning for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights since its creation in 2007. Since then the group has gained an international following and organized demonstrations in other Latin American countries.
“We are a group that aims to talk about equal rights and to show people that there is more than one way to live life,” said María Cuña, a longtime participant in Beso Diverso events.
Friday’s demonstration was the largest organized by Beso Divero, which usually targets smaller businesses and organziations. Beso Diverso set two goals for the protest: to get Mall San Pedro to publicly apologize for discrimination and aggression by its security guards, and to encourage the mall to establish measures that will protect patrons.
“These businesses don’t want to see our faces,” Cuña said. “But they will see hundreds of our faces tonight.”
This year the group has also organized demonstrations in front of Club 80’s and Gran Bingo Multi Color, both in San José. In March they protested in front of the Peruvian Embassy in the eastern suburb of Curridabat after a February demonstration in Lima ended in violence at the hands of police.
Although homophobia exists around the world, Carrión and Cuña believe it is especially bad in historically Catholic countries.
“The Catholic Church has a strong influence on Costa Rican society, which is a huge setback for a lot of equal rights issues,” Carrión said.
Beso Diverso members say they will continue to speak out against discrimination until equality is achieved for the LGBT community.
“Things will change sooner or later,” Carrión said. “Things have to change.”