In Awe of San Juan: Guest Report on 1st LGBTT Health Conference


Tom Rachal, Steering Committee Member

by Steering Committee member Tom Rachal

Reporting on the First LGBTT Health Conference in Puerto Rico

Have you ever spent an entire day attending a LGBT Health Conference and were glad you did?  Was that conference entirely in Spanish and you don’t speak the language?  Was that conference in San Juan, Puerto Rico only a few blocks from the sandy beaches?  Well, I, along with several members of the Steering Committee of The Network for LGBT Health Equity,  have just returned from such a conference and how glad I am to report it was absolutely outstanding!

The Puerto Rico Health and Tobacco Summit was attended by an overflow crowd, and they provided an excellent English interpreter for those few of us who do not speak their language. The entire program was filled by presenters who had their own Powerpoint presentations, and at no time was I ever bored by the information they provided.

Juan Carlos Vega (left) & Tom Rachal (right)

I learned many great things there but the one I find most disturbing is the following.  There are some unique problems on this beautiful isle which most of us do not face on a daily basis.  Hate crimes against LGBT people are rampant, the police don’t conduct proper investigations and many such crimes are not ever solved.  But, nonetheless, these are strong people who are determined to overcome all obstacles placed in front of them.  They will eventually win over their opposition… it is just a matter of time.

I cannot remember when I was so warmly greeted by the host organization as I was here in San Juan.  When you visit here, I am sure you will be glad you did and will dislike having to fly back home as I had to last week.

Tom Rachal

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