San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Costa Rica’s LGBT community mourns death of leader

Renowned Costa Rican LGBT activist Abelardo Araya died Wednesday of an apparent heart attack at the age of 42. He was found in his home on Thursday.

On Friday, family members, friends and LGBT activists held a funeral ceremony for the human rights leader in Alajuela, northwest of San José. Araya was diabetic and had cardiac disease, family members said.

Araya will be remembered for his work promoting gay rights in Costa Rica, including the founding of Movimiento Diversidad (Diversity Movement), a political movement aimed at furthering LGBT rights. In 2006, the group presented a same-sex civil-marriage bill in the Legislative Assembly. 

“We have lost a leader in the fight for human rights that are still not recognized by the Costa Rican government or society,” said former Broad Front Party lawmaker José Merino, who supported the 2006 bill. “He was a courageous man who was willing to face attacks because he knew the value of his work in the movement.” 

Merino described Araya as courageous, smart and humble. He said Araya had lived a life of poverty as was fully dedicated to the promotion of LGBT rights.

“Despite his young age, he had been a gay-rights activist for the past 25 years. He left us at a time when we are finally seeing a step forward with the gay marriage bill in Congress. We will have to take drastic measures to be able to replace him in the movement, since he became one of those people who make themselves irreplaceable,” Movimiento Diversidad lawyer Marco Castillo said.

Araya’s funeral was paid for by contributions from friends and supporters, who collected enough money for the service in less than 24 hours, a testament, they say, to Araya’s importance in the community.

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