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Remembering the Orlando 49: Luis Daniel Wilson-León 

Every week between now and the one-year anniversary of the Pulse Nightclub shootings, Orlando Weekly will profile a person killed on June 12, 2016. This week: Luis Daniel Wilson-León

For Luis Daniel Wilson-León, Florida was the first place he could be himself.

Growing up in a religious household in Ponce, Puerto Rico, the 37-year-old "endured countless days of bullying while growing up, by cruel people calling him all sorts of horrendous homophobic slurs," says his childhood friend Daniel Gmys-Casiano on Facebook.

"He was the first person on this earth I came out to, and he always protected and loved his friends," Gmys-Casiano says. "We were both members of the same church and we both [rebelled] against it, and against the spiritual tyrants that kept condemning us for giving what the world needs the most: love."

Laly Santiago-León says her cousin "Dani" was an "empathetic, genuine, brilliant" person who was "the light of everybody's life." He moved into her parents' home in Central Florida and learned English in six months. About eight years ago, he found love at Perfumania when Jean Carlos Méndez Pérez sold him a bottle of perfume, and eventually they moved to Kissimmee. The couple was at Pulse during the attack on June 12 and died together. Although they had a joint wake, Wilson-León's body was taken to Puerto Rico, while Méndez Pérez was buried in Kissimmee.

"It was love at first sight," Santiago-León says. "Their dreams were to buy a house, travel the world, just like anyone else."

In a New York Times video that chronicled Wilson-León's wake and funeral, his aunt and Santiago's mother, Noelia León de Santiago, tells her family that her nephew's favorite phrase was "a profound reflection that to understand, we have to love without thinking about race, religion or sexual preference."

"You don't have to understand me, only love me," she remembers Wilson-León would say.


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