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Félix Garmendía

Félix Garmendía

"I was born in Ponce, Puerto Rico in the 60s. Living in Puerto Rico, and growing up there was a bumpy process. I was very aware of my homosexual identity at a very early age, so fighting the stigma was a very intense journey in my native island.

I love art. The Ponce Art Museum was my shelter since I was in high school. As my first job ever, I guided bilingual tours for locals and tourists from all over the world.

In high school, I was introduced to music and theater, after that, I chose to pursue a B.A. in theater at the U.P.R. ( University of Puerto Rico ). Rio Piedras campus.

In college, I discovered many things about myself. My sexual identity became established, my religious beliefs changed dramatically and my awareness of my role in society became the first and biggest challenge of my life. I became a proud gay man, an atheist and an activist. The political climate in Puerto Rico was very far away from recognizing any kind of gay rights so I knew that I needed a community that I could call my own, and be myself. After several years in Puerto Rico, in my twenties, I moved to N.Y.C. to pursue a Master’s Degree in Art Education and Art Criticism at New York University. I decided to stay in Manhattan. Here I found myself. I discovered my passions, causes to fight for, and the strong community that I always dreamed of. I became a passionate man with strong convictions.

After graduation I became a N.Y.C. school teacher. I taught art in the South Bronx, Spanish Harlem and Upper Manhattan for 15 years.

Sometime in my twenties, I was exposed to HIV. I tested HIV-positive and after a serious depression, came out strong and victorious. I became an AIDS activist. My passions in life became the gears that fed energy into my existence.

Very early in my N.Y.C. years, I became a staunch liberal. All my causes were related. I was trying to survive in a world where not everybody cared if I did or not. Politics made clear who cared for me as a human being.

That’s why I’m very vocal about my postings. Not because I want to convince anybody, but I do it for those who, like me, once needed some direction in life. I want to share the "real" me with those friends with similar beliefs or at least respect for my beliefs.

Today, I still live in Manhattan. I’m legally married to my husband Denis Beale and I’m disabled. My life is not easy, I have several health related conditions that are a real challenge these days. This bring me to another one of my causes. From personal experience, I believe in the legalization of cannabis (marijuana). 

I consider myself a loving, compassionate and spiritual person. I have no patience for bigotry, especially the kind of sanctimonious bigotry that wraps itself in prayer and fake compassion.

This is a synopsis of who I am. It would be really helpful to start introducing myself with my favorite warning. Warning: I’m human, far from perfect, passionate about life, the pursue of difficult answers, and the conviction that we are all equal."

Felix has been featured in The Huffington Post’s Queer Voices; see the piece here.

You can follow Felix on Facebook here or here and on twitter @PozHeart.

  

Apr18

Greece: in the arms of the gods

Tuesday, 18 April 2017 Written by // Félix Garmendía Categories // Social Media, Gay Men, International , Living with HIV, Opinion Pieces, Félix Garmendía

Félix Garmendía tells of the special connection he feels with Greece.

Greece: in the arms of the gods

Grecia, Oct 24, 2012.

I’m not sure if I believe in reincarnation. Sometimes it sounds to me like a punishment, sometimes like another opportunity to evolve.

When I was a child I had a dream that recurred often. In that dream, I could not see myself but there were several things that were very clear. I was standing on a cliff high above a very beautiful blue ocean, there were white buildings that contrasted with the ocean’s water. I also remember a very comforting island breeze flowing through my loose fitting white garments. I’m not entirely sure that I was a male, and there was a very strong sense of spiritual connection to nature. I was so comfortable, so content, so happy, so at home. 

In 1984 I took a trip to Europe, spent 40 days all over the continent and saw wonders that I never thought I was ever going to see in person. On a Summer morning the boat that was taking us from England to the beautiful Greek Islands, arrived to the shores of a very familiar scene. I couldn’t believe my eyes I was approaching the shores of an island that was very special. My heart started to beat very fast and tears started flowing down my face. It was beautiful. It felt like home. The sapphire blue ocean, the white buildings, and this very strong feeling that I had been there before, just like my familiar childhood dream.

As a college student I read The Iliad. Till this day, it is one of my favorite books. I remember Achilles' monologue in front of the funeral pyre of Patroclus, his lover. The ultimate love offering when Achilles cuts his hair and throws it in the flames that were consuming his lover’s remains still sticks to my memory and it was all over my mind as I was watching this familiar scene.

When I arrived at the Island, I started to walk around, having even a stronger feeling that I had been there with every step that I took. The locals were friendly and beautiful. The architecture was exquisite and I decided to buy something special that will always remind me of this trip. I entered the first gift shop and right in front of my eyes, there was a hand painted scene of Achilles holding his dead lover Patroclus in his arms. I couldn’t believe it, could it be that this is a very common artistic subject or was it there waiting for me?

I will never forget Greece and my special connection with it’s artistic legacy and I always will wonder if indeed somewhere in time, I stood up on a hill and etched in my universal memory the image of what used to be home.

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