New York City’s largest Latino gay party, Escandalo Nights, now takes place the last Sunday of every month at their new venue, El Morocco Theater and Nightclub and Leopard Lounge, 3534 Broadway at 145th Street in Washington Heights, New York City.
Escandalo Nights founders, Alberto Fermin and Fernando Romero, however, see it, define it and promote is as a party for everybody—gay, straight, transgender, bisexual, curious and undefined. “With Escandalo Nights, we wanted to create a place for everybody—not only gay or straight—to come together and dance, party and socialize in a place where everyone felt safe and comfortable,” claims Alberto.
Both Alberto and Fernando were born in the Dominican Republic. When they first moved uptown to Washington Heights and Inwood, two predominately Dominican neighborhoods in Upper Manhattan, they were surprised and disappointed to see that there were no establishments catering to the Latino gay scene.
“It was sad to see the same people from the neighborhood go downtown or to Queens to socialize in a gay bar when we knew we could establish our own Latino scene up here in Washington Heights and support ourselves,” Alberto asserts. He continues, “I’m very happy with what we’re doing with the community. Every month we’re getting stronger.
And, things have changed. We used to have to go to them—now they come to us.” Although Escandalo Nights just recently celebrated its third anniversary, Alberto and Fernando have been supporting the Uptown Manhattan Latino gay community since 1990 when they promoted their first event, the Annual Gay Picnic, now in its 17th year.
“We wanted to stop people from having to meet in unsafe places. People [back then] were taking advantage of the gay community. We had to stay quiet. If we got mugged, we couldn’t go to the police and report it. If we were punched in the face, they would do nothing about it. All we had was the park.
I didn’t think this was enough. I wanted the Latino gay community to come together out in the open and be supported.” Besides Escandalo Nights and the Annual Gay Picnic, Alberto and Fernando also sponsor events at No Parking (est. 2006) and the Monkey Bar (est. 2004), two gay bars that have since opened in the community. In fact, Fernando, himself, established the first gay bar, Joel’s, on Upper Broadway, in 1993. Unfortunately, the straight Latino community was not accepting at the time and the bar was shut down in 1995. Now, ten years later, things have changed.
“When No Parking opened,” Alberto states, “I thought we might not be accepted, that we’d feel uncomfortable walking on the street. I was afraid the men [of my Dominican community] would attack us with bottles because the neighborhood was very straight and Latino culture is very macho, but nothing happened.