The LGBT community in Puerto Rico and everywhere won a big victory when a comedian known for making anti-gay comments resigned Jan. 8 and his show will be going off the air. Antulio "Kobbo" Santarrosa--who voiced life-sized puppet La Comay on Puerto Rican gossip show, SuperXclusivo—resigned from the show’s network, WAPA TV, following a two month-long grassroots social media campaign, Boicot a la Comay, which targeted the show’s advertisers.
The campaign emerged after publicist José Enrique Gómez Saladín was brutally murdered and his body burned. On the show, La Comay shocked many on the island by suggesting Saladín brought the violence on himself because he was allegedly in an area known for “prostitution and homosexuality.” GLAAD worked with Puerto Rican activist Pedro Julio Serrano and Boicot la Comay. Over 25 LGBT and Latino organizations and leaders signed a letter December 18 calling for the show to stop defaming LGBT people. Signatories included National Council of la Raza, National Hispanic Media Coalition, Familia es Familia and HRC.
Some of the advertisers that dropped their support of the show included AT&T, Walmart, Ford, Coca-Cola, and Chevrolet. Many celebrities, including Ricky Martin also participated in a show of solidarity with the victim and his family, proclaiming "Todos somos José Enrique" ("We are all José Enrique")
Santarrosa and co-host Hector Travieso had been in trouble before for using anti-LGBT, racist, xenophobic and anti-female language. In good faith, local groups, such as Puerto Rico Para Tod@s and national groups, such as GLAAD and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, worked to help them understand their power to inflame prejudice. Network executives apologized and arranged for media trainings with producers and reporters, many of whom do good media work covering LGBT issues and people. But La Comay remained the unfortunate and unrepentant exception and eventually resumed making anti-gay statements. When, a few days ago, the network reportedly told Santarrosa they would review SuperXclusivo’s content before it aired, he resigned.
“Thanks to thousands of Puerto Ricans on the island and in the U.S. who mobilized to demand respectful programming, Wapa TV finally took action,” said GLAAD President Herndon Graddick. “The network now has an opportunity to undo the years of damage and present stories that educate, inspire and create positive change, not fuel a climate of intolerance and violence.”
Puerto Ricans have had to live with escalating violence for years. There were a record-breaking 1,136 murders in 2011, according to the Huffington Post, including an alarming uptick in crimes targeting gay and transgender men and women. In 2009 the world was horrified by the murder and decapitation of gay teen Jorge Steven Lopez Mercado.