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ADELANTE STAFF ARTICLE
Instead of my regular political viewpoint column this month, I am interviewing
Juan Noguez, the first openly gay Latino Mayor in Southeast Los Angeles. He is the
mayor of Huntington Park, a city in the Southeast area of Los Angeles County with
63,139 residents. Over 67% of its residents are under 34 years of age.
The population is over 96% Latino. 56% of the residents are foreign born and
85% of the households are families. It is now an area with primarily modest paying
service jobs. The median income is $29,844 compared to $46,152 to Los Angeles
County. 43% of the residents in Assembly District 50, of which Huntington Park is
located, have no health insurance.
Huntington Park’s Pacific Boulevard boasts one of the most popular shopping
districts in Southern California.
Huntington Park is primarily an immigrant community with lowing paying jobs of
young families. It’s not an area you would think of that would have a successful
openly gay Latino mayor. But it does! Revista Adelante is excited to publish the first
interview with Mayor Noguez.
Question: Mayor Noguez, we want to congratulate you on being the first openly
gay mayor in Southeast Los Angeles. I’m sure Revista Adelante readers are
interested in hearing more about you. Tell us a little about your background.
Mayor Noguez: I was born at Kaiser Hospital in Hollywood. My mother was born in
Michoacán and my dad in Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco. Until I was six, I was raised in
Michoacán, and then we moved to Boyle Heights where I graduated from
Roosevelt High School.
Question: Tell us, why are you involved in politics?
Mayor Noguez: I have always been involved in my community and church to
improve the quality of life for everyone.
Question: When were you first elected to public office?
Mayor Noguez: I was elected in March 2003 to the Huntington Park city council.
Upon election, the council members elected me Vice Mayor.
Question: How did you become mayor and how long is your term?
Mayor Noguez: In March, 2004, the members of the city council voted unanimously
to elect me mayor. My term is for 1 year. I serve on the city council for four years.
Question: What are you goals as mayor and as a member of the Huntington Park
Mayor Noguez: The needs of senior citizens. I led the effort to establish a public
transportation system and increased the nutrition program providing hot meals.
For youth, I have worked with others to continue building new schools.
I’ve also worked hard the past year to help establish the Southeast LA HIV/AIDS
Health Access Network, which is a collaborative of the Oldtimers Foundation,
Bienestar Human Services and JWCH Institute.
Question: How has AIDS/HIV impacted your community?
Mayor Noguez: Incidence of HIV/AIDS is high in Southeast LA with nearly 1,000
AIDS cases. But we are a much underserved area for HIV/AIDS services.
According to the LA County Office of AIDS and Public Policy, there have been 183
AIDS cases in Huntington Park alone. That’s not counting the numbers of HIV
positive individuals or people who have not been tested.
Huntington Park is located within the San Antonio Health District. Even though
36% of the estimated number HIV/AIDS cases in Los Angeles County East Service
Planning Area 7 are in the San Antonio Health District, there is only one point of
entry for services in Downey, none in Huntington Park.
What are you doing to change that?
Mayor Noguez: By helping to form The Southeast LA HIV/AIDS Health Access
Network, which we call SELA. This unique partnership will focus on providing
critically needed HIV/AIDS education, prevention, testing and care services to the
communities of Southeast Los Angeles and to improve the health of all Southeast
LA residents and families for generations to come.
Question: How and when did you come out of the closet?
Mayor Noguez: I have always been out. I went through a transition period where I
believe that most of us have gone through in the Hispanic culture. I had a
girlfriend, but never felt right, I wasn’t truly myself.
Question: Most of our readers are probably wondering, how is that you are openly
gay in such a family oriented Latino city? What has been the reaction of residents?
Mayor Noguez: My community respects me for what I do. I respect my community
and they respect me. I believe strongly that Latinos respect you by for what you
do and who you are, as long as you do it with integrity, honesty and respect for
Question: How can our readers help and get involved with your efforts?
Mayor Noguez: They can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or they can
call my office at City Hall at 323-584-6221. I encourage them to help educate the
Southeast LA communities. HIV is an important health issue in our community as
are diabetes and cancer. I know of no other epidemic that impacts our youth today
Question: Changing topics, Huntington Park is a low income area with a majority of
the residents foreign born? What are you doing as Mayor to secure more
Mayor Noguez: One of they key ways our community can improve itself is through
education. That is why I have helped lobbying for new schools. We are building
one new high school, two middle schools and four elementary schools. I have also
lobbied for more affordable housing. Huntington Park is 750 units below in
affordable housing. We are building 19 new units and have 96 in the pipeline.
Question: What is your position on gay marriage?
Mayor Noguez: I believe that two people who love each other should exercise their
right to follow their hearts. If that encompasses marriage, I support it.
Question: So, are you looking forward to marriage? I am sure that after reading
this interview, many of our readers will be interested.
Mayor Noguez: Yes, I am, when I find the right person.
Question: What is your position on PPIA, the Permanent Partners Immigration Act?
This bill will amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to provide a procedure for
United States citizens and lawful permanent residents to sponsor their same-sex
permanent partners for U.S. residency.
Mayor Noguez: Well, I support it. The majority of my community are immigrants. Of
those who are gay or lesbian, their partners who are U.S. citizens or permanent
residents should have the right to immigrate their partners. In fact the four
members of U.S. House of Representatives who represent Huntington Park and
adjoining areas are co-sponsors of PPIA, including Representatives Lucille Roybal
Allard, Xavier Becerra, Linda Sanchez and Grace Napolitano.
Question: What do you want to say to our young Latino readers who are grappling
with their sexuality?
Mayor Noguez: I don’t want them to suffer with their sexuality. Don’t waste time
and energy trying not to be yourself. Trust and have the courage to accept
yourself. You’ve got love yourself more than anyone else in this world. God loves
us as we are, no matter what our sexuality.
Question: We have an important election coming up on November 3rd, what is your
message to our readers as the election approaches?
Mayor Noguez: If you have the right the vote, here is the time. As a Democrat, join
me in supporting the Democratic ticket.
Question: Our readers are primarily members of the GLBT community. You are up
for reelection in March 2007, but tell us, why should a non-gay person vote for
Mayor Noguez: Because of my track record of working and delivering for the entire
community. I work for the greater good of Huntington Park. Sexuality has no
bearing on my vote. My commitment is to improve the quality of life for everyone.
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