Rainbows and glitter covered thousands of people gathered at Crockett Park and around “The Main Strip” on North Main Avenue for the 14th annual PRIDE San Antonio Festival and Parade Saturday. This year’s theme was “Living Now – Forever Proud.”
The festival and parade marked the end of a month-long celebration of the LGBTQIA – lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender/transexual, queer/questioning, intersexual, and asexual – community in San Antonio and across the nation.
“Pride always happens around the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots,” said Michael Bobo, 60. “A lot of times we skip pride. But this year it seems particularly important given the current state of the political climate in America.”
References to this unique moment in time could be seen throughout the festival and the parade with slogans such as “Make America Gay Again” stitched on hats and printed on T-shirts. Yet City representatives eager for better community alliance are reaching out from City Hall.
Mayor Ron Nirenberg and his family served as the grand marshals of the pride parade this year. Along with City Council members Roberto Treviño (D1), Rebecca Viagran (D3) , Shirley Gonzales (D5), Ana Sandoval (D7), and John Courage (D9), the mayor showed himself as an ally for the LGBTQIA people of San Antonio riding on a flower-strewn float.
“We stand with you,” Nirenberg said in a video of him speaking with some of the paraders before nightfall. “No matter what is happening in D.C. and Austin, you can count on your council and you can count on your city to always stand with you. Show some pride tonight, have some fun, and everybody have a great time.”
Nirenberg’s sentiment resonates with those community members looking to their city government for representation.
“Talking about the political climate, if the election in November taught us anything it’s that we need to be active at the local level as well,” Bobo said. “I think it’s important at this particular time to be visible, to celebrate who we are, and as much as we’re celebrating, we’re also honoring the history of gay culture.”
Nirenberg, a longtime ally of the community, was not the first mayor to serve as grand marshal of the parade. Former Mayor and HUD Secretary Julián Castro was the first mayor to lead the parade during his tenure in 2009. He was grand marshal again in 2011. Former Mayor Ivy Taylor, on the other hand, did not serve as grand marshal during her years as mayor and was not seen as an ally of the LGBTQIA community.
“It’s really important to me to tell those in power to suck it if they want to repress any of the peoples that are here in any way, shape, or form,” said Jenny Aubrey, a mother of two daughters who are part of the local LGBTQIA community.
“For me [Pride] is definitely a sense of community,” said Jenny’s daughter, Kaya. “Its knowing that everyone here is loving and supportive of each other. If they’re allies, if they’re a part of the LGBT community themselves, and it’s just being able to be yourself.”
As the festival ended in Crockett Park, crowds moved to The Main Strip, known for its LGBTQIA-friendly shops, bars, and clubs. Another of the year’s novelties were newly-chalked crosswalks at the intersection of North Main Avenue and West Evergreen Street.
Four rainbow flags had been painted across four of the intersection’s walkways earlier in the day. The chalk faded as thousands of feet crossed during the day and parade, but District 1’s Treviño wants to make the crosswalks a permanent feature in the area. A vote may be brought to City Council as early as August.
A single blue line was also chalked across the intersection in commemoration of SAPD officers Miguel Moreno and Julio Cavazos. Both officers were shot on West Evergreen Street during a crime prevention patrol Thursday. Officer Moreno died from his injuries Friday, and Officer Cavazos remains in serious condition. The suspect, Andrew Bice, later shot himself in the head.
The San Antonio Police Department and Sheriff’s Department had a visible presence in the ceremony. Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar marched alongside other uniformed officers.
But despite the recent neighborhood tragedy, the celebrations were bold and bright. Smiles and laughs emanated from the masses of colorful marchers and spectators situated beneath beside flashing lights, band music, and rippling flags.
“The crowd here is a lot bigger this year than it was last year,” Aubrey said. “That means that we’re working towards our goal of being accepted and not being afraid to come out.”