In Songs, Stories, Latino And LGBT Voices On How The Orlando Attack Feels Personal

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

And this is For the Record.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MARTIN: Reports of a shooting started to filter out of Orlando in the early morning hours last Sunday - multiple casualties at a nightclub called Pulse. Dr. Chadwick Smith described a scene of growing horror at a nearby trauma center.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CHADWICK SMITH: They brought the first patient in, and then they brought another patient in, and then they brought another patient in.

MARTIN: When Mayor Buddy Dyer took the podium to update the press, it was worse than anyone had thought.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BUDDY DYER: And it is with great sadness that I share we have not 20, but 50 casualties in addition to the shooter. There are another 53 that are hospitalized.

MARTIN: The massacre didn't just happen in any nightclub. It was a gay club on Latin night. About half the victims were of Puerto Rican descent. Others had roots in Mexico, Cuba, Venezuela, Guatemala and the Dominican Republic.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ANGEL SANTIAGO: This is definitely a life-changing event for me and my family. For me, being a gay man, going to a club like Pulse, it's kind of like a safe haven.

MARTIN: For the Record today, two cultures grieve a very personal attack.

XORJE OLIVARES: I was, like, the out kid who wasn't really out. Like, everybody assumed that I was the gay one. But unless I really cared for you, I wouldn't confirm it.

MARTIN: This is Xorje Olivares. He lives in New York now, but he grew up in Texas along the U.S.-Mexico border.

OLIVARES: I knew I was a gay way - maybe in elementary school, but I still never wanted to say anything because of this inherent machismo culture that comes with Latino identity and Mexican-American identity. So it's this idea of, you know, the big Stetson cowboy hat, the cowboy boots, the big buckle, the guy who's drinking all the beers and just is the breadwinner and is the person who just has all the control. And early on, I knew that I wasn't that person.

MARTIN: In Xorje's family, the Catholic Church was a pretty big deal, and that complicated things, too. His mom was president of the altar society. His dad decorated the church for Palm Sunday. Xorje was an altar boy. He waited to come out to his parents until he was in his early 20s and had already moved to New York.

OLIVARES: Whether because of the Mexican-American identity or because of the Catholic identity, I was afraid I was going to get disowned. And if I lived in New York and I was already on my own, then I didn't have to worry about that, necessarily. So...

MARTIN: ...Why did you feel that way? That's pretty severe.

OLIVARES: It is. And I know because of the close relationship I have with my parents, there was really no reason to feel that way. But I felt like if I prepared for the worst and if it wasn't that bad, then I was at least already better prepared for it than if I hadn't.

MARTIN: When he finally did tell them, it was over Skype.

OLIVARES: And they didn't really react. And we immediately changed the subject and sort of started talking about something else. And the conversation went for, like, another hour.

MARTIN: Whoa.

OLIVARES: So...

MARTIN: ...That's an awkward hour.

OLIVARES: A very awkward hour.

MARTIN: His mom came to terms with it fairly quickly, but Xorje didn't talk to his dad for several weeks after that conversation. Eventually, the two of them reconnected and his dad just laid out everything he was feeling.

OLIVARES: My father said he needed to grieve the son that he imagined me to become with this idea of, you know - he had - when I came out, I was 22. And he said, you know, I had these 22 years to figure out the wedding and the wife and the kids and, you know, planning all these different things that you imagine your child having.

But I think at the end of the day, he just said to me, I'm just scared for you. I'm scared for your safety. And I - there are a lot of people out there who just hate people like you for being LGBT. And then the fact that you're brown is even worse. So just be careful.

MARTIN: The night of the Orlando shooting, Xorje had been out dancing with friends in New York. The next morning, he turned on his TV and saw the headlines - a gunman in a gay nightclub, dozens of people shot.

OLIVARES: The more and more I just kept hearing Latin night, Latin night, LGBT club and all of it happening during Pride, it just - it really hit close to home. It was one of those things that I thought, wow, they really went for us.

MARTIN: Forty-nine people were killed that night at the Pulse nightclub. Some were gay, some were not. Maybe all of them were out. Maybe they weren't. And that's the question that preoccupies Xorje.

OLIVARES: So the thing that pains me now is trying to figure out, who are these parents grieving for? Are they grieving for, you know, the straight child that they thought they had, or are they grieving for the newly-out child that they had?

MARTIN: The other thing Xorje can't shake is the feeling that a refuge for his community has been violated.

OLIVARES: It's one of those things where we just have to take it back. We have to find a way to make it ours again.

VERONICA BAYETTI FLORES: To be in a place where there are so many people like you and - it's just hard to say. It's - you feel so whole.

MARTIN: This is Veronica Bayetti Flores. She's a freelance writer and co-host of the podcast "Radio Menea." Miriam Zoila Perez is the other host. They are both Latina. They are both gay. And for the past week, like others in their community, they've both been consumed by the Orlando attack. They brought us a few songs that speak to this moment for them, and we'll play those songs in a few minutes. But first, here are some of their own reflections on the past week. Here's Miriam.

MIRIAM ZOILA PEREZ: Now that this has happened, this is just a part of our experience as people. And the memory of the people who were murdered and the poignancy of, you know, the next time we're all gathered at a queer Latino night in D.C. or wherever - you know, we're not going to be able to be in that space without thinking about the people who we've lost and what that means. So it's hard to say exactly, but I just - you know, nothing I planned on doing post-Sunday is going to be the same. Like, everything is shifting.

MARTIN: Does it feel that way to you, Veronica?

FLORES: Yeah, absolutely. And music also is specifically connected to this because music is one of the reasons people seek a Latino night at a club - right? - because being Latino comes with a really rich culture which includes specific kinds of music. And in - at this time, music has been something that we've also been using to mourn and to feel connected and to grieve.

MARTIN: So with that, let's listen to a little music and talk about why these songs are resonating with you right now. Miriam, the first song I'm going to play that you selected is this song by Selena, right? Can you set it up?

PEREZ: Yeah, so this is a song by Selena. It's called "El Chico Del Apartamento 512." And, you know, the reason I picked it is because it was playing at Latino night on Thursday night at the party that I was at for Latino pride in D.C. And I remembered it stuck out at me amongst a night of great music. I remember dancing to it with my friends.

MARTIN: Let's take a listen.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "EL CHICO DEL APARTAMENTO 512")

SELENA: (Singing in Spanish).

PEREZ: And then the poignancy of the fact that Selena was actually murdered at 23 years old - you know, her life and her legacy has taken on a poignancy for the Latino community, particularly for Mexican-Americans, because she was such a big figure.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "EL CHICO DEL APARTAMENTO 512")

SELENA: (Singing in Spanish).

MARTIN: Another track - now, this one much darker. This is called "The Body Electric." Let's listen, and then we'll talk on the other side.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE BODY ELECTRIC")

HURRAY FOR THE RIFF RAFF: (Singing) Said you're going to shoot me down, put my body in the river. Shoot me down, put my body in the river while the whole world sings, sing it like a song. The whole world sings like there's nothing going wrong. He shot her down. He put her body in the river.

MARTIN: It's haunting. Veronica, why did you pick that track?

FLORES: So I picked that track for a number of reasons. The song is by Hurray for the Riff Raff, who is also known as Alynda Lee Segarra, who is a queer Puerto Rican woman. And to me, I think about the deep and crippling economic crisis that Puerto Rico is going through right now. And the island is losing about a thousand people a week in a diaspora. And many of them are landing in Orlando.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, " THE BODY ELECTRIC")

HURRAY FOR THE RIFF RAFF: (Singing) Oh, and tell me what's the man with the rifle in his hand going to do for a world that's so sick and sad? Tell me what's the man with the rifle in his hand going to do for a world that's all gone mad? He's going to -

FLORES: The other reason is that this song is about violence. It's about transphobic violence and homophobic violence and police violence. And I think that it really reflects some of the ways that LGBTQ Latinos experience violence in this country.

MARTIN: Veronica and Miriam brought in one more song, and it might sound kind of familiar.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "YO VIVIRE") CELIA CRUZ: (Singing in Spanish).

MARTIN: Yes, this is "I Will Survive" by Gloria Gaynor, but this version is called "Yo Vivire." And it is sung by the one and only queen of Cuban music, Celia Cruz.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "YO VIVIRE") CELIA CRUZ: (Singing in Spanish).

MARTIN: I suppose it goes without saying why that is an appropriate anthem for this moment.

PEREZ: I think so. Yeah, I think so.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "YO VIVIRE") CELIA CRUZ: (Singing in Spanish).

MARTIN: For the Record today, we heard from Miriam Zoila Perez, Veronica Bayetti Flores, and we also heard from Xorje Olivares.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "YO VIVIRE")

CRUZ: (Singing in Spanish).

Copyright © 2016 NPR

=====================================

You can listen to complete song in Spanish (with lyrics) :

   >>> Yo Vivir√© - Celia Cruz