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Proud hook-up

OPEN HOUSE:
When they’re not planning city festivals, Pride Toronto co-chair Francisco Alvarez and his partner Daniel Garcia-Herreros can be found in their eccentric loft—home to their cat with Sofia Vergara eyes

 

You guys have been together for two-and-a-half years. How did you meet?
Francisco Alvarez (pictured top left): We met at an open meeting for Toronto Pride. Daniel was there with the Latin American gay group HOLA.
Daniel Garcia-Herreros: Francisco was speaking. He introduced himself as “Francisco Alvarez,” which sounded Latin. I’m originally from Colombia, so I asked where he was from and discovered he was from Colombia too. It was a nice surprise.

And your first date?
FA: About a week after we met we went for Chinese food at Lobster King, which is a super cheap place. You can feed two people for 20 bucks.

Now you live together in a loft near Dundas and Bathurst.
FA: I bought this place nine years ago. The building used to be a picture framing factory and is supposedly one of the oldest condo lofts in the city. It’s two floors with more than 1,400 square feet. It feels like a little house.
DGH: By coincidence, my sister and mother live three blocks away near Trinity Bellwoods.

I see you have furry friends.
FA: We have two tabby cats, Blinky and Sofia. Blinky is 10, Sofia is 2.
DGH: We adopted Sofia together. She has eyes like Sofia Vergara, who’s actually from my hometown of Barranquilla.

Judging by the paintings on your walls, I take it you’re art lovers.
FA: I started as a visual arts major in university, but then I started taking dance and became a professional contemporary dancer. I retired from dance when I was 30 and ended up in communications, later becoming the director of the Institute for Contemporary Culture at the Royal Ontario Museum. I now run an art consultation business called Mr Pink.

I see you have a painting of Deborah Harry.
FA: It’s an acrylic painting by
G N’ S Projects. I like it because of the pop references. It’s punk and fashion looking. She’s saying the word “whimper,” which is spelled backwards. It’s a reference to the anime scene in Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill 2.

What’s the story behind the big blue circle in your living room?
FA: It was one of the first things I made when I moved in. It really bugged me that the fireplace was not in the centre of the room, so I took a string and pencil and drew a circle. The centre of that circle is the centre of the room. It’s inspired by artist Yves Klein’s Blue Disc, which is an intense monochromatic blue.

What do you do, Daniel?
DGH: Events. I have a lot of experience with events. This year I’m directing the first-ever Pan American Food Festival, happening between Sep 20 to 22 at Harbourfront Centre. It will feature music, art and food from 41 countries from the Pan- American region.”

So you’re the cook in the house?
DGH: Actually, Francisco usually does the cooking. I’m just the sous-chef. On weekends we drink
cocktails or wine, prepare food with candles. He makes shrimp. It’s delicious.

You’re both in great shape. Do you work out together?
FA: We do, but we ignore each other at the gym. Daniel is one of those guys who works his arms one day, his legs the next. Because of my background in dance, I do everything at the same time.

So you’re not one of those couples that spot each other.
FA:  No. I have no idea how much he can bench press.

Francisco, as the co-chair of Pride Toronto, what kind of changes can people expect to see this year at Pride?
FA: Two big things. The Trans March will go down Yonge Street for the first time. We now have support from the city to do that. We’re also extending the Pride Parade route so it now ends at Yonge and Dundas Square, rather than Gerrard. And we’re going to use Dundas Square on Pride Sunday for more programming.

With the TreeHouse Party moving to Ryerson’s Quad, is this year’s trend to take the festival southbound?  
FA: The festival is getting bigger. We felt we had to try new things as we prepare for World Pride next year.

Pride Toronto was struggling when you joined the board four years ago. Funding was at risk over Queers Against Israeli Apartheid marching in the parade, former executive director Tracey Sandilands resigned; there was a $400,000 deficit….
FA: I was there during the worst times.

Why did you run as co-chair?
FA: When elections came up, we had no candidates. No one on the board wanted to run. If I didn’t run, some stranger would have come in. I had some call to leadership. I had to help save this organization.

And Pride Toronto had a $100,000 surplus one year later.
FA: We saved money by only presenting Canadian artists in 2011. We squeezed all of our suppliers to give us a price break. It’s all about strategies and very close monitoring of the budget. We have a very dedicated staff.

Pride has been criticized for not reflecting the LGBT community as a whole, which led to the creation of its Community Advisory Panel.
FA: You have to realize that Pride Toronto isn’t the biggest LGBT organization, but it’s the most visible because of the festival. People tend to think it’s more than it is. Everyone thinks it’s their Pride. But you have to respond to people’s expectations. A lot of people have an emotional attachment. Some people only see hard partying and circuit boys, others only see small community groups. Few people have the same experience, which is a great thing.

Do you actually have time to experience the festival?  
FA:  I’ll get distracted by things like [city councillor] Giorgio Mammoliti stalking the Dyke March and there goes my entire afternoon.

Do you and Daniel even spend time together at Pride?
FA: We head over there in the morning and check in by phone during the day. He’s helping collect toonie and cash donations.
DGH: Last year we were on a float together promoting World Pride. We have big carnivals in Barranquilla where I’m from, so I love floats.

Francisco, what has been your most memorable Pride memory as co-chair?
FA: The first time I rode in one of those golf carts was amazing. I took a video of it and watch it from time to time.

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