Ten months after Mario Pérez survived the worst massacre in U.S. history at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, he told a crowd gathered on Lincoln Road that he was grateful to be able to celebrate gay pride in a place he’s felt comfortable since he was 18 years old.
“This means a lot to me,” he told the audience of supporters, politicians, business dignitaries and passersby Thursday night. “I have my friends and family here, my mom. This event is for everybody that was at Pulse, including myself, being shot, being a victim, almost losing my life.”
The Miami native had traveled to Orlando that night last June for a housewarming party. He and his two best friends, Amanda Alvear and Mercedez Flores, then decided to go to Latin night at Pulse. He recovered from his gunshot wound, but he lost Alvear and Flores.
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On Thursday, he clutched a string from a piñata while the crowd counted down until he yanked it, revealing rainbow-colored streamers as the tower at Washington Avenue was illuminated with a rainbow display. At the other end of the pedestrian mall, each floor of the iconic parking garage at Alton Road was lit to make a rainbow. They will be lit this way at night through the weekend.
The event marked the beginning of Gay Pride weekend in Miami, an annual celebration of the LGBTQ community that this year will include a somber remembrance of the 49 people killed in the Pulse massacre, the majority of them Hispanic. South Beach, a longtime epicenter for the LGBTQ community, will host several events through the weekend.
In honor of Pride and the memory of those lost at Pulse, several landmarks in Downtown Miami will also shine with rainbow colors at night through the weekend.
In South Beach, a daylong festival will be held on Ocean Drive on Saturday and a parade from noon to 2 p.m. Sunday. This year, many student groups are participating in the parade, which will also be a “march for equality.”
MIAMI BEACH GAY PRIDE FREE EVENTS
▪ Miami Beach Gay Pride week officially opens 6 p.m. Monday with the raising of the rainbow flag over Miami Beach City Hall, 1700 Convention Center Dr.
▪ Pride Lights the Night pays tribute to the victims, families, and friends of the Pulse Orlando nightclub shooting in June 2016. Buildings throughout the greater Miami area will light up in the colors of the LGBTQ rainbow flag at sunset through the weekend.
▪ Miami Beach Gay Pride Festival, noon to 10 p.m. Saturday at Lummus Park, 11th to 14th streets on Ocean Drive. Beach party with international DJs, exhibitors, community booths, family fun zone, food vendors and cash bars.
▪ Miami Beach Gay Pride Parade, noon to 2 p.m. Sunday along Ocean Drive from 5th to 15th streets. Featuring Ross Mathews, celebrity grand marshal; “Uncle” Johnny Pool, advocate marshal; and Liebe & Seth Gadinsky, ally marshals.
▪ Miami Beach Gay Pride Festival, noon to 10 p.m. Sunday at Lummus Park, 11th to 14th streets on Ocean Drive.
For a complete list of events, visit www.miamibeachgaypride.com.