Meet the Dominican Republic Class of 2020

Meet the 32 outstanding LGBTIQ leaders selected for this year’s LGBTI political leadership training in the Dominican Republic. These leaders have expressed clear interests in getting involved in politics and fight for equality. This is the 3rd cohort of leaders in the Dominican Republic, selected in collaboration with our local partner Diversidad Dominicana

Combining theoretical and practical content, the LGBTI political leadership virtual training will provide LGBTIQ leaders with the necessary skills to participate in the political process and hold public office positions in the Dominican Republic. The training equips trainees with tools to fight violence and inequality from within the political system.

1.     Willy Feliz Luis

I am a student at the Universidad Católica Tecnológica de Barahona UCATEBA, working towards a degree in Tourism and Hotel Business Administration. In 2017, atop taking several Gastronomy and Tourism technical courses at INFOTEP, I received a Master’s Degree in Ceremony and Stage Mastery at UCATEBA. In 2018, I started my career as a model in Santo Domingo, where I participated in beauty pageants and achieved several winning titles. I am currently studying in preparation for my career and preparing for my next contest in late 2020.

2.     Casandra Peralta Taveras

I am a trans woman from Santo Domingo, Distrito Nacional. I come from a traditional conservative family that taught me values ​​including respect towards others, which motivated me to defend the rights of unfairly mistreated people. My vocation is to work for the rights of the LGBTIQ community, especially trans women. I have collaborated with other activists on many human rights issues and campaigns to prevent HIV, AIDS and STIs. These actions empower us; we belong to alliances with other national and international organizations that fight for these same causes. We seek to strengthen our community and be at the table to make decisions for ourselves.

3.     Claret Martínez Garrido

I previously worked on the technical and production aspects of ​​the Dominican Television program “60 Minutos de Seguros,” an information program educating watchers on insurance. I continued building my communications expertise by participating in several Ministry of Culture courses and talks on Cinema and audiovisuals. Born in San Juan, Dominican Republic, I now work on social media content as a Community Manager with a sociable and humorous personality, devoted to responsibility and committed to just causes.

4.     Claritza Virginia Jaquez

In 2006, I graduated from the Autonomous University of Santo Domingo with a bachelor’s degree in Industrial Psychology. I later worked at the NGO “Service for Peace – Dominican Republic,” where I managed and lead volunteers, an extremely rewarding experience. I got a scholarship to attend the University of the Caribbean, where I developed my skill of presenting my ideas clearly. For the past five years, I have devoted my time to working at the Dominican Port Authority as a secretary in the Billing Control Department.

5.     Yarol Jackson Hernández García

After graduating with a Bachelor of Education from the Bolivarian University of Venezuela, I achieved a postgraduate degree in Public Management Control. I then held various position at the Postal Telegraph Institute of Venezuela over the span of 10 years. I’ve participated in various electoral processes and political organizations in Venezuela, and am always ready to experiment and learn new things to improve myself personally and professionally. I was born in Caracas, Venezuela, however due to the current situation in the country, I had to come to the Dominican Republic with my four-year-old daughter. I am currently working with a family business, and am extremely grateful for the opportunities the Dominican population has given me.

6.     Cristian Rodríguez de León

Originally from Santo Domingo, I graduated in 2003 with a technical bachelor’s degree in Computer Science, and two years later started my advertising career with a lot of sacrifice and self-financing. In 2016, I launched my own advertising & communications company “Libertad Creativa,” and have since managed to overcome important challenges as a new company and small LGBTQ couple-owned business.

7.     Dawrin José Caba Goris

I am a cisgender gay man born in the Dominican Republic. In 2012, I graduated with a Bachelor of Advertising and three years later completed a Master of Digital Journalism at the University of Nebrija in Madrid, thanks to an international scholarship plan. Though I have no intention of creating a new political party or joining of any of the country’s existing ones, I believe in the importance of promoting the fulfillment of human rights, the education of gender identity in schools, the separation of church and state and the visibility of LGBTQ + people.

8.     Dorian Rivero

As a teenager in Santo Domingo, I represented my school as a speaker before the network of UNESCO-linked schools. Thanks to the courses and diplomas facilitated by UNESCO on STD prevention in vulnerable populations and adolescents, I started to work actively and directly within the LGBT community, including workshops I’ve held at the organization “Amigos Siempre Amigos.” I have also informally helped various NGOs in data collection projects for human rights observatories. My career has largely centered around data analysis, in which I started at large insurance institutions and worked towards my current role as Senior Operations Analyst in the call center sector.

9.     Jean Luis Sano Santana

I am a defender of human rights in the Dominican Republic. In 2017, I conducted research in the Political Parties and Electoral Systems unit of the Dominican Political Observatory (OPD). I am now a Political Negotiation Advisor for the Organization Commission of the Dominican Republic’s People’s Force Party (FP), and have published various articles and research papers on the country’s political-electoral scene. As a member of the Association for Caribbean Studies and the Association for Latin American Studies, I have presented research papers at various international conferences in countries including the United States, France, China, Colombia, and Trinidad and Tobago. I was recently selected as UNDP’s Technical Assistant for Inclusion and Human Rights.

10.  Joened López

I studied audiovisual arts at the University of La Plata in Buenos Aires. I now work as an audiovisual producer and own a production house for audiovisual content. I aim to contribute positively by sharing new stories on the subjectivities of the LGBT community in the Dominican Republic.

11.  Mario Nouel

I was born and raised in the Dominican Republic and am currently working towards a law degree. I have taken courses on decolonialization, anthropology, sociology, Dominican studies, human sexuality and organizational capacity as an LGBTI community. I am sub-coordinator of “UNIDI,” a volunteer organization that fights for the rights of the sexually diverse male population in university. I am also part of the Dominican political party “Frente Amplio.”

12.  Merlin Jean Paoli

I was born in Haiti and am openly gay. I have a bachelor’s degree in psycho-education and psychology from the Haitian State University. I now serve as the executive director of “Heritage,” a non-profit organization working for the protection of Human Rights. I fight alongside the other main actors of “Heritage” for a society without discrimination. Inclusion, respect and integrity are integral parts of our actions. We conduct educational activities and awareness campaigns with the populations to whom our field of action extends.

13.  Michel Suazo

I was born in Santo Domingo. Though my degree is in psychology, I have worked in many different areas and positions. I began participating actively in Dominican politics several months ago as a facilitator and chairperson during the elections to ensure the efficiency and transparency of the country’s elections.

14.  Rolfi Baldwin Burgos

I was born in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic. At the age of 14, I came out as bisexual. Since then I have remained an enthusiastic young man, regardless of adversities. At age 15, I began religious activities with a church and was elected youth president for four consecutive years. I’m now a college student, and plan to pursue a position in politics in the future.

15. Ruddy José Mena Estrella

I am currently a student of the administration of tourism and hotel companies. I have participated in programs including different UN programs and the Youth Parliament, where I led the Duarte province. I have worked towards environmental protection across multiple spaces and have completed several political training courses. I now volunteer at a nursing home, bringing food rations for the elderly. Helping others is my vocation.

15.  Wilson Javier Paulino Reynoso

I was born in Santo Domingo. After graduating from APEC University Advertising in 2010, I created a YouTube channel called “I’m Sorry Wilson” where I discuss various topics including analysis, social criticism, entertainment, and film shorts. My videos and subsequent career helped me win a trip to Cannes where I met Tito Rodriguez, Director of Dominican Cinema, who opened the doors to the world of cinema. In March of 2019, I created the podcast “WILFERLAND” with my partner of 11 years to create a safe and informative space for the LGBTQIA+ community.

16. Héctor Cabrera

When I married my husband, I had to travel to Buenos Aires, Argentina; I was both frustrated and satisfied as a Dominican. I believe that no LGBTQI+ couple should go through such a situation and no state should force us to go to other countries in search of equality.

17. Paholy Peña

I am from the Pueblo Viejo community. From an early age I served as a leader in my community in defense of human rights and the LGBTI community. I am excited to acquire knowledge from the Leadership Academy and put it into practice helping others, especially our community. I currently serve as vice-president of my municipality’s youth association (Ajempuvi) as I work towards a law degree. I plan to pursue a career as a businesswoman, mayor, representative, and owner of a foundation dedicated to defending human rights.

18. Sebastián Arturo Bocio Batista

I am from Sabana Perdida in the north of Santo Domingo. I recently came out of the closet; I look forward to developing my skills as an LGBT+ activist, knowledgeable and prepared to participate in the democracy of my country.

19. Edilio Nicolás Lantigua Peña

I have always felt a strong desire to help others. When I realized my sexual orientation and I learned that our rights were not respected, I decided to take action to our community achieve that respect. I studied law to defend human rights, and now I work as a coach on the “Dream Project,” a project dedicated to promoting sexual education. I collaborate on school trainings helping prepare students to participate in different United Nations contests.

20. Benoit Valincy Toussaint (Tiben)

I am Haitian-Argentine. I started advocating for human rights around 12 years ago. I was secretary a state school and president of the “Fusion Haiti” party’s student movement. In Argentina, I was a member of “Todos con Mandela,” a group that defends the rights of Afro-descendants living in Argentina, and the group “Xango,” which defends the rights of LGBTI Afro people. In Haiti, I manage the team of educators at the organization “Heritage.” Additionally, I founded an organization to seek funds to help institutions and organizations to promote recycling and tourism.

21. José Miguel Lazala Rodriguez

I have 30 years of experience as an activist, and am a founding member of “Amigo siempre amigo.” I studied agronomy at Colegio San Ignacio de Loyola, and now serve as Deputy Director of Trans Unidas Dominicanas. I hope to better serve my community as a future candidate for alderman.

22. Pablo Fco Pineda Matos

I am a law student and radio announcer in a very populated sector of the capital. I am openly gay, and deeply identify with the most vulnerable members of my community. I am a community leader, politician and advocate for LGBTI people. I have a gay sports league with a large gay enrollment. I look forward to providing knowledge from the Leadership Academy to my colleagues in the league and ensure the full respect of people in our community.

23. Aldaucy Nuñez Cruz

I studied law at the Universidad Católica Nordestana S.F.M., and in 2010 graduated from La Escuela de Liderazgo Acrecer in Santiago de los Caballeros. I then began practicing as a life coach for adolescents. I have long dedicated myself to training young people with behavioral problems, working with them on topics including self-esteem, teamwork, youth leadership, and political leadership. In 2013, I ventured into the political area in the Dominican Liberation Party (PLD) and chose then to work towards political gender equality. I currently work in the Judiciary supporting community work, poverty eradication, gender equality, and family support, among other institutions.

24. Yerman Estiven Fulgencio

I am a student of Social Communication at the Technological University of Santiago (UTESA). I graduated from the Professor Otto Rivera National School of Voiceover, and work as an announcer and master of ceremonies. I also graduated from the National School of Fine Arts where I studied acting and theater, and trained in commercial and professional voiceover at the American Management and Leadership Training Institute. I have participated in local and national plays and movies, and work as an event producer and image consultant with a record of fantastic results. I currently serve as the official presenter of the Nizao carnival and patron saint festivals, and own the event company YEFF Event Production.

25.  Lourdes Pérez

I was born and raised in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. I have excelled across professional areas including hospitality, tourism, and education, building on my skills my diploma in Teaching Qualification covering various fields of tourism. I also hold a Bachelor of Social Communication specifying in journalism. The leadership school comes to me in a correct way since I was looking for the bases of how to be able to contribute to society and my LGBTI community in one way or another, thus contributing my knowledge and acquiring equally everything that helps me to vocational training at the policy level, to create accessible policies.

26.  Paola Vidal

I am currently finishing a law degree, specializing in immigration law. I migrated to Madrid, Spain from La Vega, Dominican Republic with my wife and daughter to be able to legalize our relationship and expand our family in an environment free from discrimination for our child. I plan to one day return to the Dominican Republic, hand in hand with experienced activists from groups like Victory Institute and COGAM, to join the largest LGBTI revolutionary group in the Dominican Republic.

27.  Yumilka Bruno Fernández

I was born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic and completed my higher studies in Venezuela. There began my passion for politics and the rights of citizens. I was an active member of student resistance movements against oppression and abuse of the government system. I am a marketer by profession, a businessman by vocation and a stylist at the whims of fate; I have the peculiar gift of words and empathy. I worked on the campaigns for several aldermen candidates during the last municipal elections; my experience in networks and marketing granted us the opportunity to visit disadvantaged sectors. There, I understood that honest and good-hearted people must try to participate more actively in policy to ensure resources truly reach those who need it.

28.  Julio Martínez

I have participated in political groups on civil society and come from a family with a background of successful political movements. Education on political leadership helps communities empower themselves and provides communities with tools and strategies to create more sustainable discourse. I look forward to expanding my knowledge of how to face the barriers the state makes the GLBT community face daily.

29.  Ruddy José

I am passionate about politics and helping others and being a voice for people without mourners. I want to further expand my knowledge and one day utilize it to represent people.

30.  Cristian Durand

I am openly gay and have spent 10 years with my partner; I have learned a lot from our relationship, and it has helped me mature. I am ready to learn how to change this paradigm in Dominican society and open doors for future generations. I studied dentistry in Cancun, and  like to undertake ideas and I love science, biology, medicine, technology, history, social sciences and mysteries. I look forward to learning about LGBTI rights and exclusion and developing my skills to fight to change for increased rights and inclusion. I hope to help rewrite history and truly help my community and the world.

31.  Anyelica Benitez

At age fourteen, I was an active member of the oratory of the Don Bosco Church in Don Bosco, Santo Domingo, and felt the need to do more for my sector. I got involved in sports activities, and later decided to join my sector’s neighborhood council. At 22 I joined the Women’s Circle of the Church of the Metropolitan Community (ICM) and the Collective of Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Men (COLEHT). When I moved to San Pedro de Macorís, I joined the Volunteer Network for Equality and Diversity (REDVID). I also participate as an active member in the Modern Revolutionary Party (PRM). Each of these spaces taught me to always serve my community and contribute something positive to my country.

32.  Catalina Silba

Many trans women live with HIV-AIDS and there are no decent work opportunities for us. I look forward to informing myself and developing my wealth of advocacy knowledge. I currently work as a beauty stylist.

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