Hope, love and equality was the message at the first Santa Maria Pride Celebration and Resource Fair on Saturday in the Town Center West parking lot.
The crowded five-hour event was full of activities such as salsa classes, games, face painting, live music, cabaret and even a drag show. And the fun didn't stop there. An after-party was planned at Rooney's Irish Pub in Old Orcutt.
"Considering how large Santa Maria is, with over 100,000 residents, we know there's a large LGBTQ population here, and we definitely needed a pride celebration," said Jessie Funes, of House of Pride and Equality (HOPE), a festival sponsor along with Central Coast Future Leaders. In addition, local organizations and businesses showcased their resources.
Guest speakers Rep. Salud Carbajal, D-Santa Barbara, and Alma Hernandez, who represented 3rd District County Supervisor Joan Hartmann's office, reminded attendees to love, recognize and protect each other and fight those who attempt to halt progress in the nation.
"Recent years have seen great progress for the LGBT community and the momentum must not stop," Carbajal told the crowd. "These are different times in Washington and I have a front-row seat in seeing quite the interesting circus. This administration has already challenged the progress that's been made, but you and I are here, ready to stop that from happening."
Carbajal condemned the White House administration stopping transgender people from serving in the military, calling it "shameful and discriminatory."
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"Gender identity shouldn't prevent anyone from serving their country," he said. "As a Marine, I find this declaration appalling by the president. All American institutions, military, local government and communities must be welcoming places for all people and it all begins here in the city of Santa Maria."
Hernandez urged the crowd to "look around, recognize each other as a community, a family, a support system" and advised them "to commit to be there for one another, as we face fear, hateful speeches or scapegoating."
"Remember our humanity, and don't let the ugliness of fear rob our love for one another," she said. "What I love the most about the LGBTQ community is that their precedence to love above anything else. That's why this community understands the plight of other groups borne out of the same struggles, specifically their struggles to participate, to be heard, to be seen as valuable assets to the well-being of our cities, states and nation."
Pioneer Valley High School student Samantha Basulto and her friend, Andrea Pasillas, had never attended a pride event, but said that the event was necessary to remind LGBTQ communities that they were not alone.
"When I found out that Santa Maria was going to have its first pride, I was so happy, I was in tears," Basulto said. "I feel like today serves as a safe space for all of us, and it made me realize that I'm not alone. I can have support and there are so many other people who are going through the same experiences as me."
Pasillas, who identifies as an LGBTQ ally, said that she attended the event to show her support for the community.
"Growing up, I wasn't very educated on these movements. "But after attending a Community Leadership Institute summer camp this year, it inspired me to be an ally, become tolerant and aware of what's going on in this community that needs help," she said.
"I feel like Santa Maria really needed this for a long time, because LGBT or not, we should all learn about other people's struggles."
Gina Kim covers crime and courts for Santa Maria Times. Follow her on Twitter @gina_k210