The State Department is defending a $20,600 grant for a cultural center in Ecuador to host “drag theater performances,” saying it gives LGBTQ people an outlet “to express themselves freely and safely” in the South American country.
Fox News Digital first reported on Wednesday that the State Department awarded the grant on Sept. 23 to the Centro Ecuatoriano Norteamericano (CEN), a non-profit organization supported by the U.S. Embassy and Consulate in Ecuador, to “promote diversity and inclusion” in the region.
The project at CEN, which started Sept. 30 and runs until Aug. 31, 2023, will include “3 workshops,” “12 drag theater performances,” and a “2-minute documentary,” according to the State Department’s grant listed on the USASpending.gov website.
A State Department spokesperson told Fox News Digital in a statement that the grant is part of “a wide range of strategic programs in Ecuador that incorporate concepts from diversity, inclusion, and representation to equity and accessibility.”
“In September 2022, the U.S. Department of State awarded a grant to the Centro Cultural Ecuatoriano Norteamericano Abraham Lincoln, a U.S.-Ecuadorian cultural center in Cuenca, Ecuador, for a program that uses the arts to raise awareness about diversity and inclusion,” the spokesperson said. “The program’s goal is to promote tolerance, and the arts provide new opportunities for LGBTQI+ Ecuadorians to express themselves freely and safely.”
“Facilitators and artists in Cuenca will collaborate with a local theater company in implementing workshops, creating customized plays, and producing a documentary video; the program will conclude in June 2023,” the spokesperson continued. “LGBTQI+ people across the globe deserve to live in societies free from targeted violence and discrimination.”
“Recent data suggest an alarming and deadly rise in violence against LGBTQI+ persons in Ecuador,” they added. “The program will advance key U.S. values of diversity and the inclusion of LGBTQI+ communities as well as promote the acceptance of communities that are disproportionately affected by violence.”
The State Department has awarded hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars to the CEN over the years, but the September grant appears to be the first of its kind funding drag performances.
In 2016, the State Department awarded a $50,000 grant to the CEN to promote the College Horizons program, which teaches English to young people of color. In 2015, it awarded $234,000 to the CEN for the building of a new auditorium.