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Orlando Cruz with Matt

Meeting Orlando Cruz!

So there I was at a gay bar in San Juan, singing karaoke and minding my own business, and who should walk in but Orlando Cruz? He’s the Puerto Rican boxer who made headlines earlier this month when he came out of the closet – the first openly gay boxer in history. He’s explained his decision in terms of being true to himself and doing his part to encourage gay young people and discourage the bullying they face.

(Here are some of those headlines: ESPN, USA Today, interview with LZ Granderson of ESPN, and a Spanish-language interview on Telemundo. Granderson also wrote a piece discussing how he relates to all this as a gay man.)

His arrival at the bar was unexpected. Orlando lives and trains in New York, so his social calendar doesn’t normally include that bar – or any bar in San Juan. They stopped the music to excitedly announce his visit. Everyone gave him a hero’s welcome, cheering and applauding. It was an amazing moment to be a part of.

Orlando Cruz with Tom R.

Here’s Orlando with Tom…

We chatted for a bit, and Orlando seemed like a sweetheart. He was excited about an upcoming appearance on The View and seemed a little nervous to appear in front of such a huge audience. He asked, “That’s big, right?” and I replied, “Yeah, The View, that’s big.” Sounded like he’s not used to that kind of attention except when he’s in the ring.

I asked how he likes all the attention he was getting, including from us. (I was worried we were making a nuisance of ourselves.) He said he was enjoying it. He was nice enough to take pictures with a couple of us, too… and to suggest a glass of water for someone who’d had a little too much to drink. It was a good call.

Orlando Cruz with Matt

Orlando and me

Anyways, that was definitely a highlight of this trip. I’m feeling grateful for the chance to meet Orlando, for his decision to step up on behalf of himself and LGBT young people, and for his eloquence. I especially loved the way he compared his identity as a Puerto Rican to his identity as a gay man, as reported by USA Today. I hope the way he framed it will help people understand gay identity a bit better:

“I have [always been] and will always be a proud Puerto Rican. I have always been and always will be a proud gay man.”

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1 Comment

  1. hey, matt.
    it was fantastic meeting and hanging out with you in san juan. …and great recommendations for some authentic PR culture both at the restaurant in the market as well as karaoke at tia maria’s (not to mention meeting orlando cruz).
    safe travels.
    -tom.

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