Cuarenta y Nueve is how we say 49 in Spanish. I don’t think that I have said these words or even thought about this number more than I have since the Pulse massacre in Orlando on June 12, 2016. 49 people lost their lives on that day. This remains the deadliest attack on LGBTQ people, on North American soil, to date.
It was Latin night at the Pulse during Pride month in Orlando. Those that were having a good time at this popular Gay club were predominantly from the large Puerto Rican community in the area. When the news broke, the Spanish speaking television and radio channels picked it up immediately because of these demographics. I listened intently until the last death was counted, until they said Cuarenta y Nueve. My heart broke for every community that I was a part of; Latina, lesbian, and at one time also someone who lived in the area.
Martin Luther King, Jr. once said “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.” These words reverberated in my thoughts, following the massacre, and quite frankly for almost a year afterwards. I contemplated writing a book of poetry myself, one for every victim, one for every life ended that night. The task proved too much to bear for one person and so the thought to include others in the making of this book was born. I thought it would be difficult to recruit busy and talented people but I was so wrong. Almost immediately after reaching out to key people in the community, friends, family, here in Toronto and far and wide, the response was incredible. More exact than that, it was an incredible outpouring of love. Once again that number, in both languages, became significant. Cuarenta y Nueve, for the 49 innocent lives lost and by 49 people with nothing but love, talent, and kindness in their hearts.
This book is not only in honour of the lives lost. It is also dedicated to the 58 people who were wounded, many of which who lost friends and or family members that were enjoying the evening with them. While the world LGBTQ community, and our allies, will never forget, they truly bear the pain of that terrible evening.
This is also dedicated to the many, from all walks of life, who cried for our community following the news. We not only felt your dismay, but too your love and acceptance through your tears
May the world find a way to love, past all our differences, and may every life increase in value because of this awakening.