A “colourful and creative character,” an “icon,” a “New York legend.” These were some of the dozens of epithets remembering Osvaldo Gomez, better known as Ms. Colombia, who died on Thursday (October 4).
The authorities have yet to determine the exact cause of the death, but no foul play is suspected.
New York City Council member Daniel Dromm, who represents Jackson Heights and Elmhurst, also confirmed the sad news in a statement which read, in part: “While life did not always treat Ms. Colombia with all the respect she was due, New Yorkers will remember Ms. Colombia as a hero to everyone.”
An iconic figure in the borough of Queens easily spotted due to the extravagant and colourful outfits, Ms. Colombia’s story became more widely known when she was featured in the docuseries No Your City, dedicated to prominent characters in the Big Apple.
Before arriving in the US in 1975, Gomez had been a law graduate in Colombia, but left the country to escape the drug-related violence that had been sweeping the country.
Ms. Colombia, who contracted HIV in the 1980s and worked to raise awareness of the condition, loved New York and refused all labels. “I like to be free,” the icon said in the docuseries, adding: “They ask me: ‘Are you homo? Are you gay? Are your lesbian?’ And I say: ‘No, I am a human being from another planet.'”
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Dromm, who met Ms Colombia at various Pride celebrations in New York, announced that a vigil will be held on Friday.
“Memorial VIGIL for Ms. Colombia, tomorrow, Fri., 10/5 at 7 pm at Jax Heights Post Office, 37 Ave & 78 Street. Join family and friends. Come share your memories with our community,” he tweeted.
Many people who had met Ms. Colombia already began sharing their memories on social media.
“This has me emotional. All New Yorkers know what a loss this is. RIP Ms Colombia. Thank you for being you. I was always so happy when our paths crossed. You were always warm and welcoming. You certainly were a human being from another planet. Thank you for the fun. I hope you’re living your best self on another beautiful journey now,” one Facebook user wrote in a post.
A Twitter user posted: “Really is sad to hear the news today about Ms.Colombia. Truly such an amazing human being. Unique in her ways I grew up around her and she knew me by heart. Truly a heart break. Rest in Paradise Queen. #MsColombia”
Irish drag queen and LGBT+ rights activist Panti Bliss also paid tribute to Ms. Colombia, sharing a picture of the two of them together in a tweet with the caption: “R.I.P. Ms Colombia. I trust there’s a comfortable spot in a colorful celestial menagerie somewhere with her name on it.”