A Chilean LGBT rights activist who became the first openly gay political candidate elected in the South American country officially took office on Thursday.
Jaime Parada Hoyl, spokesperson for the Movement of Homosexual Integration and Liberation (MOVILH,) is one of five candidates who won seats on the municipal council in Providencia, a wealthy enclave in Santiago, the country’s capital, on Oct. 28. He wore a gay Pride flag on his lapel during the inauguration ceremony.
“It is further proof that Chile is a country that is changing,” he told the Washington Blade hours after he took office, noting he remains thankful to those who voted for him. “Providencia, the third wealthiest commune in the country, was believed to be a conservative stronghold. Today, without question, I was elected with a strong vote, precisely because I ran a campaign focused on the demands of the LGBTI population and the effects it had on local life in [Providencia.]”
Parada, who is among the nine LGBT Latin American activists who met with their American counterparts in September during a State Department-organized trip, conceded he was surprised by how some Providencia residents responded to his campaign.
“Many people, including older people, told me on the street, ‘I voted for you because you are brave,’” he said. “I never thought that my platform would resonate with generations that are usually seen as more conservative.”
Parada’s election is the latest in a series of events over the last year that have highlighted the South American country’s increasingly visible LGBT rights movement.
President Sebastián Piñera in July signed a hate crimes and anti-discrimination bill with sexual orientation and gender identity and expression roughly four months after a group of self-described neo-Nazis allegedly beat Daniel Zamurio to death in a Santiago park because he was gay.
Thousands of Santiaguïnos marched in the streets of the capital in the days and weeks after the March 3 attack that had left him in a coma. An estimated 80,000 people also took part in an LGBT rights march in Santiago in June.
The Inter-American Court of Human Rights in February ruled in favor of lesbian Judge Karen Atala who lost custody of her three daughters to her ex-husband in 2005 because of her sexual orientation. Three gay Chilean couples who had been denied marriage licenses filed a lawsuit with the same tribunal in September after the country’s Supreme Court ruled against them.
In addition to Parada; voters in Lampa outside Santiago re-elected transgender Councilwoman Alejandra González during the country’s Oct. 28 municipal elections. Trans activist Zuliana Araya also won a seat on the Municipal Council in the coastal city of Valparaíso.
Josefa Errázuriz, who backed Parada’s campaign, defeated long-time Providencia Mayor Cristián Labbé, a retired colonel who was a member of the secret police force that operated in years after Gen. Augusto Pinochet’s military dictatorship began in 1973. She stressed the need to promote diversity and equality during her inaugural speech.
“To our neighbors in Providencia, the new Providencia does not exist without you,” said Errázuriz. “We play an active role in it. I pledge to all of Providencia’s inhabitants that in order to incorporate our projects I will be the mayor for everyone because in Providencia there will be no space for discrimination.”
Parada said bringing diversity education to local schools, implementing anti-discrimination campaigns and helping “those neighbors who feel vulnerable” are among his priorities.
“We have a big task ahead of us,” he said.