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After The Death Of Chilean Gay Daniel Zamudio: It Takes More Than Tolerance To Change Anti-Gay Culture In Latinamerica

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He had a loving family, a job, a lot of friends and dreams.

He was 24 years old, and even though several times he had suffered verbal bullying for being gay, he walked around the streets of Santiago of Chile with optimism and confidence.

Until that day in March, when at Parque San Borja, he was found by four self defined "neo-Nazis", from poor background and even poorer education.

What follows is pure horror.

Dark night, dark souls. They begun to beat and torture Daniel Zamudio for five hours, and left him in that same park, alone, unconscious and seriously wounded.

¿The reason? That he was gay.

After 20 days of medical care and national concern, nothing could de done to save him from an inevitable death at la Posta, the public emergency hospital in Santiago.

After his death, thousands of santiaguinos went into the streets to show their solidarity to Daniel's family, and also their outrage about what happened to him, and about the situation of the minorities in our country.

A month after his death, we have a lot of things to think about, especially regarding the acceptance of diversity and the rights of minorities in our country.

Latino culture has certain tendency to be conservative and it's always said in foreign press that Chile is one of the most conservatives countries in our region. Indeed, in Chile gay marriage is not legal, and neither are civil union for same sex couples, even thou gay associations like Movilh and Iguales have being lobbying strongly for this. We have a record on these issues: we were the last ones to approve the legalization of divorce, and all kinds of abortion (even in a case of rape) are forbidden.

The case of Daniel Zamudio, then, is not only about crazy skinheads killing a young man. It must lead us to think about respect for diversity within our society. There have been strong calls to be more tolerant. But I think that what we need is not tolerance, but acceptance.

The word tolerance sounds -at least in Spanish- much more as a way of saying: I don't like and neither support the way you live or think, but I will say nothing and tolerate you. In this mind set there is no trying to understand and see the other as an equal, there is only the silence and the omission of discrepancies. That's an attitude pretty much common in Chile, by the way. There is a certain tendency in Chile to meet and interact with people of the same background, something called "gente como uno" ("people like us"). There are no surprises in meeting gente como uno, but no mutual enrichment either.

Acceptance is a word I prefer, because it's a concept that can lead us to improve our society, and make it stronger. There is a famous Chilean professor, Humberto Maturana, that talks about the need to accept "the other as a legitimate other in convivence".

And there is the key. To accept the long time excluded -gays, divorced, people from other religions, for example- as legitimate others. Not to tolerate them in a patronizing way, but see in their different lives and perspectives, a path to enrich and humanize ourselves.

Diminishing different people, even in jokes, doesn´t lead to acts of violence like the Zamudio´s crime, but certainly create a hostile environment to social diversity and respect.

We have to discuss in Congress the laws about gay rights and anti discrimination, but at the same time, we have to evolve from this culture of social homogeneity, to one of inclusion, diversity and acceptance.