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JUAN PALOMO: BRIDGING COMMUNITIES

Juan R. Palomo was born in Grafton, North Dakota to Mexican immigrant parents and grew up in Crystal City, TX, spending much of his first 20 years with his family on the migrant farm worker trail to midwestern states.

He moved to Houston In 1990 as a columnist for The Houston Post, to write three columns per week, with free reign to develop content. Palomo had been with the Post nine months when Paul Broussard was murdered during a gay bashing incident (July 4, 1991). Palomo was horrified, even more so, when Broussard's mother said she was unable to understand why someone would murder her son. Palomo concluded it was because people like him remained silent. He wrote, "I feel a special responsibility to speak out because I have this forum and, more important, because like Paul Broussard, I am gay." The column ended: "I didn't know Paul Broussard, but silence does equal death and I have a responsibility to ensure that Houston does not forget him, or how he died, or why."

He sent the column to his editor and wrote a coming-out letter to his siblings and sent it off. The column was returned saying the ending needed to go or it would not be run. After many discussions he changed the ending, and saved a copy of the original to share with colleagues.

The Post published the revised version of the column on July 9. The column stirred the gay and straight communities to demand action to stop such hate crimes but Palomo was still bothered that most readers thought he was a "straight man with liberal views" who on occasion wrote about AIDS and gay issues. The Houston Press ran a cover story posting the original column with Palomo coming out as a gay man. Charles Cooper, the Post's senior vice president and editor felt that the publicity was detrimental to the Post. Palomo's continued insistence that he had a right and an obligation to speak about it led to his being fired.

Hispanic leaders, Queer Nation and a large number of Post reporters and editors protested together and there was extensive coverage on the wire services, The New York Times and the Washington Post. As a result, Palomo was rehired a week later.

During Palomo's career he reported and wrote opinion for The Houston Post, covered religion for The Austin American-Statesman, and wrote a column for USA TODAY. Retirement brought poetry and art.

Paul Broussard Obituary