The three-day PDX Latinx Pride festival was originally called “Portland Latino Gay Pride.” It started as a single-day event in 2006, founded by David Martinez and Melanie Davis, as a way for LGBTQ people of Latin descent to celebrate their unique identities and cultural experiences. Last year, the name was changed in an effort to make the festival even more inclusive.
The word “Latinx,” festival organizer Christian Baeff explained on OPB’s “Think Out Loud,” is a gender-neutral alternative to the masculine “Latino” or feminine “Latina,” in a nod to transgender and non-binary people.
Baeff immigrated to Oregon at age 21 from Argentina with his mother. Despite knowing he was gay from a young age, he didn’t come out to her until he was 25.
“My family’s very small. My mom pretty much is my family and I was afraid of rejection,” he said. “I knew that if she were to react in a non-accepting way I would lose her and I would lose pretty much my whole family.”
But Baeff said she accepted him. “The first thing she said is that she loved me very much, no matter what.”
Baeff faced big challenges attaining legal immigration status.
“Sadly I did not have many chances to become documented. The only way for me was through marriage, and I did not want to marry someone that wasn’t for love,” Baeff said.
He had a domestic partnership ceremony with longtime partner Robert Ellestad in 2009 and married him in Iowa two years later, but their marriage wasn’t federally recognized until a key part of the Defense Of Marriage Act was struck down by the Supreme Court in 2013.
“Robert was finally able to petition for me, and that’s how I became documented,” he said.
Baeff has since worked as an advocate in both the LGBTQ and immigrant rights movements. He is now the chair of PDX Latinx Pride.
This year’s theme, “Building Bridges Not Walls,” addresses the current political climate with a message of positivity, Baeff said.
The three-day festival includes “Noche De Arte,” a night of performance and visual art curated by the local queer-identified art collective Pochas Radicales, and “Noche De Pelicula,” a showcase of short films about the LGBTQ and Latinx experience.
The PDX Latinx Pride festival runs July 21-July 23.
Editor’s note: this article has been updated to include the names of the festival’s co-founders.