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On August 7, 2000, Olga Orraca-Parades was arrested with 30 other women (including three other Puerto Rican lesbian activists) during one of the many acts of civil disobedience demanding that the US Navy Pull out from the small Caribbean island of Vieques after 60 years of military presence and warlike practices there.

"It was important for that group of 31 women to be part of that social justice action," says Orraca-Paredes. "To show the Puerto Rican society, and especially the people on an international level that this group of women symbolizes all women of different experiences and different lives in Puerto Rico who are struggling for peace."

Demonstrations like the one in Vieques are nothing new to Orraca-Paredes. "It's my commitment to social justice and human rights that gives me the opportunity to really stretch the hours, possibility and spirit." She says.

She began her political work in the 1970s with the Puerto Rican independence and feminist movements. By the late 1980s, she began shift her focus to the rights of the lesbian gay bisexual and transgender communities in Puerto Rico and the United States Orraca-Paredes was asked to serve on the board of directors of he Puerto Rican Coalition of Lesbians and Homosexuals Puerto Rico's largest coalition of LGBT rights organizations.

Today, Orraca-Paredes is in collaboration with the Coalition Against Article 103 fighting to amend the sodomy law in Puerto Rico's penal code. She is a member of the Rainbow Pride Coalition which organizes the Pride March and Coming Out Day in Puerto Rico and has been a co-chair and is now a member of the board of directors of LLEGO (National Latina/o Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Organization). This year she won a Collin Higgins Courage Award from the International Lesbian and Gay Human Rights Commission for her uncompromising bravery in the face of adversity.

"The Latino LGBT communities in Latin America the Caribbean and the US need a space where they can know about the different realities that we live in - socially, economically and politically. Not only in terms of the struggles of the LGBT communities but also the differences in our own countries and people," she insists.

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Author:Raber, Erin
Date:Oct 1, 2001
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