ORLANDO, Fla. — The cousin of one of the Cuban victims of the Pulse nightclub massacre told the Washington Blade on Wednesday that his relative was “fun” and “happy.”
“Alejandro since childhood was a very restless and cheerful boy,” Álvaro Álvarez told the Washington Blade from the Chilean capital of Santiago where he is a journalist.
His cousin, Alejandro Barrios Martínez, was among the 49 people who were killed on Sunday when a gunman opened fire inside Orlando’s Pulse nightclub.
Martínez, 21, grew up west of Havana in the province of Pinar del Río.
Álvarez told the Blade that Martínez lived with his father and paternal grandmother in Cuba who “adored him.”
Martínez’s father left the Communist island and resettled in Orlando. Álvarez told the Blade that his cousin moved to the U.S. in 2014 in order to live with him.
Martínez’s mother, Orquidea Martínez, lives in Cuba and has not seen her son, who was her only child, since he moved to Florida.
Florida Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) on Tuesday said in a letter to U.S. Chief of Mission to Cuba Jeffrey DeLaurentis that Orquidea Martínez’s cousin contacted her office and requested help in securing a visa for her to travel to Orlando.
A spokesperson for the Cuban-born Republican’s office confirmed to the Blade on Wednesday that Orquidea Martínez has received a visa.
“I’m proud to have helped Orquidea Martinez, the mother of Orlando shooting victim Alejandro Barrios Martinez, whose visa was approved,” Ros-Lehtinen told the Blade in a statement. “Now, Ms. Martinez will be coming to the United States to pay her final respects to her son. Under these tragic circumstances, I sent a letter to the U.S. Embassy in Havana asking for expedited consideration of Ms. Martinez’s case and I am pleased that this heartbroken mother will be able to make the final arrangements to bring her family comfort.”
Florida Congressman Alan Grayson also asked the U.S. government to grant Orquidea Martínez the visa.
Martínez defended ‘his personal rights’
Martínez is one of two Cuban nationals who lost their lives at the Pulse nightclub on Sunday.
Christopher Sanfeliz, 24, was born in Havana. He lived in Tampa, Fla.
Cuban President Raúl Castro on Tuesday expressed his condolences to the American people in a letter to President Obama.
“I reiterate to you that Cuba unequivocally rejects and condemns all acts of terrorism or hatred anywhere, under any circumstance and whatever the motivations may have been for them,” wrote Castro in his letter that appeared in the Cuban media.
Castro’s daughter, Mariela Castro, who directs Cuba’s National Center for Sexual Education and spearheads LGBT-specific issues on the Communist island, posted a lengthy statement onto Facebook in which she expresses her solidarity with the American LGBT community.
“I do not lose hope that the American people, from their pain, will succeed in achieving a society without violence,” wrote Mariela Castro.
Neither Mariela Castro nor her father specifically mentioned Barrios or Sanfeliz in their public comments.
Álvarez told the Blade that Martínez was “not very interested in ‘political’ issues.” He did say, however, that he was “aware of the fight for the (LGBT) community” and “did defend his personal rights.”
“What happened in Orlando is a painful tragedy, but it is not surprising,” Álvarez told the Blade. “The relationships that we have built has humanity and as social groups give us these types of problems all the time.”
“We are born, we live, we immediately express ourselves through values of exclusion, of hate, of questioning the other, of difference,” he added. “Regardless of race, religion, socio-economic power, social origin (or) sex, we are a humanity that has everything except for values of respect for the other and integration with the other.”