Denver Residents Throw LGBTQ Wedding for Venezuelan Migrants | Westword

Denver Residents Throw Wedding for LGBTQ Migrants From Venezuela

Amarilis and Mariangy Delgado Gutierrez tied the knot at Sloan's Lake on Sunday.
Amarilis (right) and Mariangy Delgado Gutierrez, both migrants from Venezuela, tied the knot during a small ceremony at Sloan's Lake on June 9.
Amarilis (right) and Mariangy Delgado Gutierrez, both migrants from Venezuela, tied the knot during a small ceremony at Sloan's Lake on June 9. Bennito L. Kelty
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A year after they left Venezuela and headed to the United States, Amarilis and Mariangy Delgado Gutierrez tied the knot with the help of Denver residents who hosted a wedding for the two migrants at Sloan's Lake Park on Sunday, June 9.

Amarilis and Mariangy have known each other most of their lives; their two families were closely connected in Valencia, the third-biggest city in Venezuela. But it wasn't until five years ago that they connected.

Mariangy already had two daughters, now nine and thirteen, and a boyfriend when she fell in love with Amarilis, she tells Westword. "It's very difficult" to be gay in Venezuela, she says, because "there not everyone accepts you."

"We started by writing to each other, and then we started to go out," Amarilis adds. "We kept going out until she realized she didn't want to be with him any longer. She wanted to be with me. She eventually made a decision, but there were a lot of problems, because the man never accepted it."

Their parents also had trouble accepting their relationship. According to Amarilis, her parents still don't recognize that she loves Mariangy, though Mariangy's mother has recently started to accept that they are a couple.

Mariangy says that the challenge of being openly gay in Venezuela was why they left; Amarilis adds that they wanted to give Mariangy's children the best opportunity for a happy life. "In Venezuela, they didn't have security," Amarilis says.

So they set out from Venezuela about a year ago with Mariangy's daughters and two of Amarilis's relatives. They were already thinking of getting married in the U.S., where they knew same-sex marriage was legal; in Venezuela, the country's 25-year-old constitution defines marriage as a union between a man and woman.

"It was an idea we had a lot sooner than when we made our way to the United States," says Amarilis. "I had mentioned it to her kind of kidding, like, 'Amor, let's get married.' At first she said, 'You don't want to marry me,' and we started there — and, well, after a time, it gave." 

Getting to the U.S. took considerable more time. After crossing the jungle in the Darién Gap in northern Colombia, the two had to sell lollipops in Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras and Mexico to make it all the way to the U.S. border, a trip that took three months in all.

"A lot happened when we passed through the Darién Gap. We had to go through mountains, rivers, a lot of things like that," Amarilis says. "In Panama, we had to walk through the streets selling candy to complete the passage."
click to enlarge Two women pour sand.
Amarilis and Mariangy honored their union with a sand ceremony: One poured white sand and the other black sand together into a glass.
Bennito L. Kelty
When the two arrived in Texas, an immigration official told Mariangy that they should go to a shelter in Denver — advice they took. Since they arrived via bus in Denver eight months ago, they've been working on their asylum claims, a process that Mariangy says has been easier because they're members of a persecuted group.

"Thank God that when we got here, we started to feel a lot better," Amarilis says of Denver. "The people here have supported us a lot. We've received a lot of help from a lot of people. We can get ahead and move forward little by little. We still have a long way to go, but we're coming along little by little until we get to a stable situation." 

Their wedding was organized by Dork Dancing, a mental health advocacy nonprofit that also hosts dances at Sloan's Lake Park on Sundays. Since January, the group has enlisted migrants to work as interns to help organize its events, as a way of creating a small job history in the U.S. for their résumés. That comes in handy when migrants are applying for housing or job assistance programs, says Susan Law, the nonprofit's executive director.

"Thanks to Dork Dancing, this was all possible," Amarilis says. Dork Dancing is planning a honeymoon for the two, she adds, but has been keeping the details a surprise.

Law learned of Mariangy and Amarilis when they were featured in a news story about migrants selling arepas and other items at Stanley Marketplace. She reached out to the two on Instagram, inviting them to be part of the organization and to take part in the Pride Parade on June 23 alongside other Dork Dancing members.

Law first met the couple during Dork Dancing's Big Gay Picnic at Sloan's Lake, and learned that Mariangy and Amarilis wanted to get married but couldn't afford the $30 Colorado marriage license. That's when Law and other members of Dork Dancing decided to host the couple's wedding.

"They didn't have the $30 because they felt bad spending it when they didn't have their children's food," Law remembers. "The day I met them, I told them I would throw them a wedding. The ceremony was great. It was a wedding on the fly, no rehearsals. We were planning it as the wedding was going on, but I appreciate the community showing up last minute."

A few dozen people came to the wedding on Sunday, and a handful of joggers and walkers stopped to watch the ceremony. The couple read short vows before recognizing their union with a united sand ceremony, during which they poured black and white sand together into a single glass. 
click to enlarge A woman signs a document.
Amarilis Delgado Gutierrez signs her marriage certificate while her new wife, Mariangy, watches over her shoulder.
Bennito L. Kelty
Amarilis and Mariangy are now focused on getting their work permits for a "dignified job" and "to make sure the girls can do well in school," Amarilis says.

The newlyweds also want to save up so they can live together. Amarilis currently lives with a family that's supporting her, and Mariangy lives with her children in a studio.

Although the newlyweds still face challenges, Amarilis encourages other LGBTQ migrants not to give up on their love.

"Keep moving forward and never give up," she says. "There's no place where life is going to be completely easy."
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