CIUDAD JUÁREZ – The light rain that fell on Ciudad Juárez did not diminish the colors of the rainbow as thousands of marchers and vehicles assembled at the State Commission on Human Rights on Sunday evening to celebrate Pride Month and to demand constitutional protection of rights for LGBT+ persons.

The “Marcha de las Diversidades Afectivo Sexuales,” organized by the Diverse Juárez Committee, featured artistic performances and speakers in front of the state commission. Thousands of participants then paraded, on foot and in decorated vehicles and floats, to the Monumento Benito Juárez accompanied by the cheers of viewers along the route.

Marchers make their way toward Monumento Benito Juárez during the “Marcha de las Diversidades Afecto Sexuales” in Juárez on June 19. (Corrie Boudreaux/El Paso Matters)

Supporters, friends and members of the LGBT+ community — an estimated 20,000, according to organizer Nasho Diaz — filled the street along the way. Among the crowd was Claudia Martinez, who held a sign offering “Free hugs from a mother” as she accompanied her daughter and her niece at the march.

“I know that there are many young people whose parents do not support them,” Martinez said. “Giving them a hug and letting them feel that support — that fills me with satisfaction. I know that they need it.”

“I feel a lot of love,” said Sofia Gamboa, after receiving a hug from Martinez. “My parents support me, but it makes me feel very bad that there are many others who don’t (support their children). So it strikes me as very caring on her part.”

Claudia Martinez, right, offers a “motherly hug” to Sofia Gamboa at a Pride march in Juárez on June 19. (Corrie Boudreaux/El Paso Matters)

The diverse committee’s platform included demands for recognition of transgender identities, legislation against hate crimes and codification of rights such as legal same-sex marriage.

“(We want) the rights that we have already achieved to be included in the state constitution,” Díaz announced to cheers from the crowd.

In Chihuahua, same-sex marriage, for example, is currently permitted but is not constitutionally guaranteed. This means that access to marriage equality depends on who occupies political offices in the state during each term, Diaz told El Paso Matters. Same-sex marriages are legal in Texas and New Mexico.

Nasho Diaz, right, is coordinator of the Comité Juárez Diversa, an LGBT+ group that organized Juárez’s Pride parade. (Corrie Boudreaux/El Paso Matters)

“Since (rights) are not guaranteed or embodied in the constitution, they are granted under the discretion of the people in office,” Diaz said. “If (the constitution) is not modified and the rights are not guaranteed, we do not know if, later, people will come who will use their discretion” to deny those rights.

Sunday’s event, the 18th such parade in Juárez after missing two years due to the pandemic, marked the first time that local city officials lent their official support to the LGBT+ community.

Float riders celebrate Pride Month during a march in Juárez on June 19. (Corrie Boudreaux/El Paso Matters)

“In diversity, we have great richness,” Municipal President Cruz Pérez Cuéllar told the crowd. “Diversity makes us stronger and more powerful. We have to strive for … inclusion and respect for human rights.”

For Diaz, Pérez Cuéllar’s appearance at the march helped reinforce the message of respect that they want to spread.

“Respecting people, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender, is important for us to have a more civilized society,” Diaz said.

Corrie Boudreaux is a lecturer in the Department of Communication at UTEP and a freelance photojournalist in the El Paso-Ciudad Juárez region. She specializes in photography as a tool to explore insecurity,...