When most people think of Hialeah, they think of brutal traffic on broken roads, a sea of fades, and Cuban bros hollering at ladies from the driver's-side window — or worse, the passenger side.
Karen Larrea and Madeline Fernandez want to change that perception. The pair is organizing the city’s first gay pride festival. On October 7, Hialeah Pride will debut at the historic Hialeah Park. It’s an apt venue in that the Larrea and Fernandez are making history themselves. Furthermore, they chose October because it's LGBT History Month.
New Times spoke with Fernandez, a native of Hialeah who also spent time growing up in Miami Beach. Before we could ask, she answered the most obvious and pressing question: Why Hialeah?
“We felt like it was needed because Hialeah is known to be a conservative city,” Fernandez admits.
“There’s an LGBT community in Hialeah, and they don’t have their own festival. I feel like they need a safe place to go as well.” Fernandez lists several surrounding cities, such as Miami proper, Coral Gables, and Miami Beach, as areas that are not only more accepting but also welcoming toward South Florida’s LGBTQ population.
“It’s needed to break barriers,” she says. “If you just stay quiet and you don’t make yourself known and put out there, then everything stays the same.”
Regarding possible pushback or protests from the community, Fernandez has the backing of the city’s government and is aware some people might not like it.
“As of right now, there’s been a great reaction from the mayor [Carlos Hernández]; he’s onboard with it. He’s very happy we’re going to do a pride in Hialeah,” she says.
“I’m sure it’s anticipated with anything,” she says calmly about potential negative reactions. “Everybody has their opinion, and that’s why we live in a free country where everybody can express themselves. I’m hoping if they protest, it’s in an orderly fashion.”
For those eager to attend, there is one vital fact Fernandez wants everyone to know.
“The one thing we are going to have that’s different from other prides is that usually they separate transgender [individuals] and give them a tent. They’ll give the women a tent. For the gay men, they get the main stage and stuff like that. At this pride, the main stage is going to have entertainment for everyone,” Fernandez says, emphasizing that last word: everyone.
“For transgender, for queer, for every letter in there — 'L-G-B-T-Q.' For the straight allies that support LGTBQ, lesbians, gay men — it’s all going to be in one space."
The full lineup is still being confirmed (aside from DJ Citizen Jane, who is a lock to perform), but Fernandez promises Hialeah Pride will offer a full day of music and entertainment from local areas such as Hialeah and beyond.
In addition to being a party, Hialeah Pride will also function as a place of education and self-care.
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“We’re also going to have a medical section. Since it will be in October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we’re doing mammograms for free, as well as HIV testing.”
For Fernandez, this all-inclusive, all-in-one pride fest is essential not only for the city of Hialeah but also for a community that’s long been feared, hated, and shunned throughout both American and world history.
“We don’t want to do a segregated pride, which is most of the time what I see. I’m not saying it’s wrong or right, but I feel like everyone should be together,” she says. “They already separate us enough.”