A large group of LGBTQ+ supporters at the San Fernando Outdoor Market on June 25 marched down the San Fernando Mall for the Pride edition of the market. (G. Arizon/SFVS)

The San Fernando Outdoor Market has opened a new chapter in its brief history.

The market, which began in February of 2021, held its inaugural Pride edition on June 25 to celebrate members of the LGBTQ+ community.

Vendors lined the streets of the San Fernando Market despite the sweltering heat. Some booths had small Pride flags to commemorate Pride Month.  

As the sun began to set and the market’s opening was almost halfway through, the evening’s unique attraction — a Pride march — emerged. Starting from the intersection of San Fernando Road and South Brand Boulevard, a large group of LGBTQ+ supporters led by drag queens paraded through the San Fernando Mall to its center, with plenty of cheers and applause along the way.  

As they marched, a long, rainbow-colored banner was held up that read “Love is Love.” 

After the march, a group of speakers addressed the crowd that gathered in the middle of the mall. Richard Salazar, who defines himself as a “queer” employee of the City of San Fernando, was the first person to propose the idea of a Pride outdoor market to Christina Bernal, the president of the Mall Merchants Association. 

The idea was initially proposed in April, Bernal explained, when at the time, nothing was put in the mall association’s budget for Pride Month.

An idea to have a celebration in the park was scrapped due to the area being under construction for the infiltration project.

Bernal then decided to use the outdoor market, which already closes down the mall’s streets. With only a couple of months to plan, Bernal was pleased with the outcome. 

“[The reception was] just so overwhelmingly positive,” Bernal said. “I couldn’t believe how many people were there for a little parade. … We had people come up to us and say thank you so much for doing this. I feel welcomed here. I feel safe here. I feel accepted here.” 

As David Bernal, a member of the City’s Planning and Preservation Commission, noted, “I want everyone here to know that San Fernando is a safe space for all people, and this event confirms that. Official Pride recognition has been a long time coming for San Fernando.

“Some even said the City would never do that. Well, guess what? It’s here now and forever.”

Councilmember Cindy Montañez was also present, thanking the crowd for its show of support and encouraging members of the LGBTQ+ community to continue expressing themselves.

Montañez said it was “beautiful” to see so many people coming out to support equality and the LGBTQ community.

After the speeches, Aqua – a drag queen — lip-synced Selena’s “No Me Queda Mas.” The audience was also dazzled by two folklorico dance performances by students from the Fox Studio of Dance & Gymnastics.  

The lively crowd danced enthusiastically to salsa music. 

With the City of San Fernando officially recognizing Pride Month starting last year, the general attitude toward the LGBTQ+ community in San Fernando, the Valley’s birthplace, appears to be shifting. 

“My mission was not to take away from what San Fernando’s culture has been serving for years, but to amend it and bring awareness,” Salazar said. “There’s nothing more that I could ever want from this community than to bring love and light.

“Thank you from the bottom of my heart to everyone who stuck by me and believed in this vision,” he said.