CHICAGO — A candlelight vigil at the corner of California & Division commemorates the terrible price paid by Chicago’s Puerto Rican Community.
Ricardo Jimenez of the Puerto Rican Cultural Center knows the tragic history.
“I always remember two of my best friends,” the 66-year-old said.
It was back in the 1980s that the then-mysterious AIDS cases surged in Black and Hispanic communities.
“Ever since then, in our community, we have had many people pass away,” Jimenez said.
Among those ravaged by the virus are Chicago’s Puerto Rican neighborhoods.
“Puerto Ricans per population of the Latinos have the highest rate of HIV per population,” said Jimenez, attributing the epidemic to intravenous drug use, leading to catastrophe. Cultural impediments often prevented treatment.
“With the stigma that’s associated with machismo, we were hurt even more,” Jimenez said.
An effort launched by the Puerto Rican Cultural Center aims to address the crisis.
“People can live with AIDS,” he said.
Dr. Jose Lopez is the executive director of the Puerto Rican Cultural Center and has worked with many others over the decades to educate and prevent new transmissions with a health initiative known as “VIDA SIDA,” which translates to “LIFE & AIDS.”
“People who have lived but also who have died as dignified members of our community,” he said.
Thursday night at the Baton Show Lounge, popular transgender Performer Eve Estrella Stiles will headline World AIDS Day commemoration with others in Uptown, honoring those who’ve been lost.
“To commemorate and welcome all of the spirits of the trans persons that passed away during the aids epidemic.”