More developments into the brutal murder of Jorge Steven López Mercado, the gay 19-year-old who was brutally murdered, decapitated and dismembered in Puerto Rico. On Thanksgiving Eve, thousands marched through the capital of San Juan to hold a candlelight vigil for the slain teen. The crowd demanded authorities investigate the case as an anti-gay hate crime—which apparently prosecutors have agreed to do under considerable pressure.
AFTER THE JUMP watch video of the demonstration.
Pedro Julio Serrano, a spokesman for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, said as the marchers gathered outside the island's Department of Justice: "We're gay people, straight people, young people, old people. It is Puerto Rico that's walking tonight."
The mutilated body of the 19-year-old college student and gay youth activist was discovered Nov. 13 along a road in the mountain town of Cayey. Last weekend, there were more than a dozen vigils for Lopez across the country. The teen was laid to rest on Monday and close to 1,000 people attended the funeral. Miriam Mercado and Jorge López, the parents of Jorge Steven, attended the vigil with Jorge Steven's 9-year-old brother Jorge Gabriel. Mrs. Mercado—who has become a model of compassion after professing her love for her gay son and uploading a videotaped message thanking supporters throughout the world—tearfully addressed the crowd last night again: "'You have given us hope at our most difficult moment as a family,' she said. 9 year-old Jorge Gabriel led the crowd in chanting 'Long-live Steven.'"
Andrés Duque at Blabbbeando reports: "Political leaders were conspicuous in their absence. Two weeks after the horrible crime and the worldwide outrage it has elicited and there is still no word whatsoever from Puerto Rican Governor Luis Fortuño, a conservative darling who is being mentioned as a potential 2012 Republican U.S. presidential candidate. Amazingly, two well-known and extremely well-loved Puerto Rican showbiz darlings did make an appearance. René Pérez, lead singer for the most successful reggaeton band in the world, Calle 13, and Denise Quiñones, Miss Universe 2001, marched in last night's vigil in support of Jorge Steven's family. After the vigil, they stopped to give my friend Pedro Julio Serrano the following declarations on video."
René Pérez said, in part: "What happened was atrocious. The crime was viciously awful, and strong and unjust, and it's also unjust that it hasn't even been spoken about. Speaking of stupid things, they honor Paris Hilton in the Senate, and they cannot speak about this?" In the video translated by Duque, and also on Twitter, the top-selling reggaeton singer in the world adds this "powerful" support for equality: "I am 'Homo' because I'm 'Homo-sapiens', I am 'sexual', hence I am 'Homo-sexual' as well."
Turning to the investigation: 26-year-old Juan Martinez Matos has been charged with first-degree murder and jailed on $4 million bond. Martinez has confessed to killing and mutilating Lopez. It appears he is laying what appears to be a "gay-panic" defense, claiming Lopez was wearing a dress and he believed the victim was a female prostitute. Martinez claims Lopez tried to stab him and he defended himself with a kitchen knife.
NGLTF’s Serrano contradicts the account. Serrano tells Doug Ireland at Gay City News: "None of Jorge Steven’s friends, and I’ve spoken to many of them, knew anything about his ever having engaged in sex work, not his family, and not the police,” Serrano, who met with investigators on the case, [says]. "Nor was he known as a cross-dresser. He identified and lived as a very proud gay man, he was very genuine and authentic. He was just very fashion-oriented and what you could call a gender-bender, but not in a transgendered way."
The Puerto Rico Department of Justice has agreed to investigate the murder of Jorge Steven Lopez Mercado as a hate crime. There have been at least 20 murders of gay men or transgender women since a 2002 hate crime law was passed in this U.S. territory. This will be the first time it has been applied.
WHEN YOU JUMP watch video of the demonstration shot by CNN iReporter Christopher Pagan. Also watch singer René Pérez and Miss Universe 2001 Denise Quiñones'—with a translation from Blabbeando's Andres Duque—AFTER THE JUMP.