Graduation Date

Fall 12-16-2016

Grading Professor

Ernesto Londoño

Subject Concentration


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


On the surface, Colombia appears to be at the vanguard of the gay rights movement, having extended legal rights to same-sex couples and transgender people in recent years. But for many of the nearly five million Colombians who are LGBT, these rights have been largely meaningless as a result of the deep-rooted prejudice that often results in violence.

Gay, lesbian and transgender Colombians have been actively persecuted by armed groups involved in Colombia’s decades-long civil war. Members of the LGBT community are four times more likely than the rest of the population to be threatened and abused by both legal and illegal armed forces.

The disproportionate persecution they have faced was recognized in the peace accord that the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the nation’s largest guerrilla group, signed last September. But the inclusion of LGBT rights was one key reason voters rejected the accord in a plebiscite held the following month.

Link to capstone project:

Audio or Video Files

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Jose Miguel Cañon is a gay man from Bogotá, Colombia, who has been waiting for political asylum since 2013

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A Colombian man looks at a list of assigned voting tables at the Colombian Consulate in Manhattan.

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A woman casting her vote inside the Colombian Consulate in Manhattan on election day.

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A man votes at the Colombian Consulate in Manhattan on Oct. 2.

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President Juan Manuel Santos at a Q&A with Reuters editor-in-chief Stephen Adler on Sept. 21.

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One of the participants at the celebration in Times Square holds his cellphone up for others to see the moment in which President Santos and FARC leader Rodrigo Londoño shaked hands after signing the peace agreement on Sept.26.

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Colombians gather in Times Square to celebrate the signing of the peace agreement between President Juan Manuel Santos and the leader of the FARC Rodrigo Londoño on Sept. 26.

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A woman chanting: "We want peace, we want it now" at the celebration in Times Square on Sept. 26.

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Colombians chose to express their support for the peace agreement through different signs and artistic expressions. This young woman chose to write “peace” in her arm.

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A man sings the Colombian anthem during the celebration in Times Square on Sept.26.

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A "No" voter yells at a group of "Yes" supporters who were standing on the other side of 37th Street in Jackson Heights, Queens, on Oct. 2.

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Supporters of the "Yes" vote chanting: “We want peace, no more war,” during a verbal battle against "No" voters in Jackson Heights on election day.

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An advocate for the "Yes" vote yells at a group of "No" voters that were gathering on the opposite side of 37th street in Jackson Heights on election day.

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Advocates for the "No" vote yell at a group of "Yes" supporters gathering on the other side of 37th Street in Jackson Heights on Oct. 2.

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A "Yes" voter seems concerned about the partial results of the plebiscite. Although the final count wasn´t ready yet, the "No" had started to win the majority.

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Some of the supporters of the peace agreement show their dissappointment after finding out that the "No" vote had officially won.

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Two supporters of the agreement hug right after finding out that, by a margin of less than 1 percent, the majority of Colombians voted "No."

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Two Colombian women sing the national anthem at an event with former Inspector General Alejandro Ordoñez in Queens on Sept.19.

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Former inspector general Alejandro Ordoñez explains his reasons to oppose the peace agreement signed in September 26 at a meeting in Queens earlier this year.

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Marlon Reina is a gay man from Cali, Colombia. Like Jose Miguel, he also came to to the U.S. trying to escape from the discrimination and victimization that he suffered in his home country.

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Marlon sent his asylum paperwork in May 2014, less than six months after having arrived to New York City.

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Marlon lives in a Hell’s Kitchen studio apartment with his husband, Julián Ruiz.

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Marlon works as a masseur to survive in NYC. He learned how to do massages when he first moved to the city and was living in Jackson Heights. He said that he would like to go to school to become a certified massage therapist once he gets his asylum.

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Marlon and Julián were friends when they were growing up in Cali, Colombia. But didn't start dating until five months ago. They got married on December 20, 2016.

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Now that they are married, Julián can be included in Marlon's asylum application. But they are still concerned about having to go back to Colombia if the case is not approved.

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Marlon and Julián enjoy cooking together. They often make traditional Colombian food.

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One of their favorites meals is "sudado de pollo" a broth made with chicken, corn, tomatoes, onions, plantains and potatoes.

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Marlon and Julián take a break while waiting for the sudado to be ready.

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Back in 2014, Marlon participated in a transvestite pageant competition. He said he did it because he needed the money and because he thought it would be a fun experience. He doesn’t like to dress as a woman, but he liked knowing that here he had the freedom to do it. “If I would have done something like that in Colombia, I would have probably gotten killed,” he said.

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Marlon and Julián feel comfortable beeing openly affectionate in New York City. But they both admit that their relationship would be very different if they were in Colombia.

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Jose Miguel lives by himself in a Jackson Heights apartment that he rented two years ago. He spent his first few days in the city at a friends house, also in Queens. But Jose Miguel soon started to feel uncomfortable, he says, because his friend didn’t seem to want him there. Since he didn’t have any money at the time, he had to move to an empty bed and sleep on the floor until he had enough savings to rent an apartment.

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Jose Miguel drinks coffee every morning before heading to work.

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He got Nacho on two years ago. He says he loves Nacho because it keeps him company. “It is always nice to have a pet waiting for you when you get home,” he said. “In a way it makes you feel less lonely.”

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During the week, Jose Miguel has coffee and a few pieces of bread for breakfast. He usually gets off work after 9pm and starts working the next morning before 10. So he doesn't have much time to make breakfast.

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He still keeps in touch with his friends at home. He says that, to him, they are a second family and sometimes he misses them more than he misses his parents and sister.

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Jose Miguel said that he likes to keep his apartment clean and organized. So he makes his bed every morning before heading to work.

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He recently started working as an assistant at a hair salon called Solarte in Jackson Heights. He says he was very excited to get that job because he had been unemployed for most of 2016.

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During his time in NYC, Jose Miguel has worked as a dishwasher, waiter, beauty salon assistant and caretaker, likes of work he struggled to get use to considering his background as an activist, he said.

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In the month and a half that he has worked at Solarte, Jose Miguel hasn’t taken a single day off. “I already had enough time to rest, now it is time for me to save some money,” he said.

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Sometimes he has to work from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. But he says that he doesn't mind the long hours because he doesn’t have a family waiting for him at home.

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Jose Miguel usually deeps clean the salon on Sundays because it is not as busy as other days of the week.

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Jose Miguel said he doesn’t keep groceries at home any more because he spends all his time at the hair salon.

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He has to take the trash out every night, so he has to wait until everybody is gone and the salon is closed.

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Jose Miguel said that he doesn't have any close friends here. He said people are concerned only about making money and don't have time to have a social life. That is why Nacho is the closest thing he has to a real friend.

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Jose Miguel said he wishes he could go see his family.



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