SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Thousands of people marched through Puerto Rico's capital on Wednesday, celebrating the life of a gay teenager whose dismembered, burned body was found dumped along a road in a small mountain town.
The crowd, many of them carrying candles as a breezy dusk settled over San Juan, were also demanding that authorities invoke a law for the first time covering crimes based on sexual orientation in the U.S. territory.
"We're gay people, straight people, young people, old people. It is Puerto Rico that's walking tonight," Pedro Julio Serrano, a spokesman for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, said among the marchers gathered outside the island's Department of Justice.
The mutilated body of 19-year-old college student Jorge Steven Lopez Mercado was discovered Nov. 13 along a road in the town of Cayey. He was a volunteer for organizations advocating HIV prevention and gay rights, and Serrano said there have been vigils for him in a dozen cities, including Los Angeles and New York.
Steve Publicover is a veteran LGBT rights activist and blogger living in the Charlotte, NC area. Steve has an extensive background in public speaking, advocacy and education. Contact him at email@example.com.