Today marks the second anniversary of Puerto Rican gay teenager Jorge Steven López Mercado’s brutal murder.
Juan José Martínez Matos stabbed Jorge Steven López Mercado to death on Nov. 13, 2009, before he decapitated, dismembered and partially burned his body. López’s remains were found dumped along a remote roadside near Cayey the next day.
López’s gruesome murder sent shockwaves across Puerto Rico and beyond—singers Ricky Martin, Olga Tañon and René Péréz of Calle 13 and former Miss Universe Denise Quiñones were among those who publicly spoke out against anti-LGBT violence on the island. Human Rights Foundation President Ada Conde Vidal, New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, New York City Councilmembers Melissa Mark-Viverito and Rosie Mendez and Illinois state Sen. Iris Martínez are among those who repeatedly blasted Gov. Luís Fortuño for his failure to follow suit.
Has anything changed in Puerto Rico since López’s death?
Martínez received a 99-year prison sentence in May 2010 after he pleaded guilty to López’s murder, but nearly two dozen LGBT Puerto Ricans have been killed since the gay teenager’s gruesome death. The Justice Department noted the Puerto Rico Police Department’s inadequate response to hate crimes as among the agencies’ numerous failures in a damning report it released in September. Fortuño and other officials have yet to publicly speak out against these incidents.
The situation for LGBT Puerto Ricans remains dire two years after López’s death stunned the world. On this grim anniversary, however, it is appropriate to remember a grieving mother’s words that sought to comfort a community during one of its darkest hours: Love conquers hate.