Richard Blanco’s inaugural poem at President Barack Obama‘s second inauguration on January 21, One Today, spoke of the common heritage and work that ties Americans together in a multilingual, multicultural nation. Now people are talking about Richard Blanco, the fifth inaugural poet and the first openly gay, Cuban one.
Time deems Blanco the new face of Cubans in America. Exit polls in last November’s election suggested that more than half of the Cuban-American population in Florida voted for Obama, which helped him win the crucial state and subsequently the election. As an openly gay Cuban-American, Blanco became a new representative of a population not known for its acceptance of homosexuality.
But just as the new demographics of America are slowly including those of the LGBT community, the changing feelings of Latin America are suggesting that previously anti-gay and discriminatory attitudes are becoming a thing of the past. There is a growing movement towards acceptance of homosexuality in Latin America for the first time. Argentina was the first Latin American country to fully legalize same-sex marriage throughout its territory. States within Mexico and Brazil perform and recognize same-sex unions. Caribbean islands with colonial ties to the Netherlands, including Curacao, Aruba and St. Maarten recognize same-sex marriages but don’t perform ceremonies. Socially conservative Chile passed a law allowing gay and lesbian people to file discrimination suits and establishing a hate crime statute in 2012.
While Latin America is still not a gay paradise—many countries in Central America still actively discriminate against gays—these laws are the mark of more progressive policies to come. Blanco’s visibility at Obama’s second inauguration should be seen as a step towards equality.