June 11, 2012 at 11:43 am EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Latino LGBT community center opens in Columbia Heights

From left: Roxana Olivas and Ruby Corado at opening of Casa Ruby (Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

More than 150 people gathered in Columbia Heights on Wednesday for the official opening of a Latino LGBT community center.

Casa Ruby will offer assistance with immigration-related issues, HIV testing from Transgender Health Empowerment and other services in both Spanish and English. Founder Ruby Corado stressed during a ribbon cutting ceremony that anyone is welcome at the center, regardless of their immigration status, country of origin, sexual orientation or gender identity and expression.

“The only thing that matters is you,” she said.

Casa Ruby occupies the first two floors of a three-story converted brownstone at 2822 Georgia Ave., N.W., but plans to eventually occupy the entire building. The center will be open from noon to 8 p.m. and has seven part-time staffers and 40 volunteers.

Corado noted that Casa Ruby’s funding comes from private donations—and not from the D.C. government or foundations. “We don’t always have to expect government to do everything for us,” she stressed. “They do have an obligation to make it easier when we have barriers, but we can do it ourselves.”

Statistics continue to show that Latinos and other underrepresented groups within the LGBT community remain particularly vulnerable to employment discrimination, health care disparities and hate crimes.

A 2011 National Center for Transgender Equality and National Gay and Lesbian Task Force study found that unemployment rates among trans people of color are four times higher than the national average. The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs noted late last month that 40 percent of the reported 30 anti-LGBT homicide victims in 2011 were LGBT people of color.

Corado, who immigrated to the United States from El Salvador in 1986, said Casa Ruby is an extension of her activism in D.C. that has spanned more than two decades.

“This is a very special moment,” she said. “It is not only a special moment for me; it is really a special moment for an entire community that has been with me for the last 20 years.”

Roxana Olivas, director of the Mayor’s Office on Latino Affairs, applauded Corado for her work on behalf of Latino LGBT Washingtonians.

“How proud I am as a Latina; how proud I am as a woman; how proud I am as a woman to have a place like this,” she said as she translated from Spanish to English. “We are here to support. We are here to be here with you by your side.”

Dulce Misterio de la Cruz told the Blade that she did not know anyone and did not have a place to live when she first moved to D.C. She credits Corado as one of the first people in Washington who helped her.

“In our community, there are many people who need help,” said Cruz. “Casa Ruby is bringing this help [to them.]”

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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