World AIDS Day 2013 Celebrations at the Puerto Rican Cultural Center-Vida/SIDA in Humboldt Park

By Jorge Cestou, PhD ABD, MBA

Altar to honor Humboldt Park community residents that have died of AIDS complications.  Photo credit: Pedro Mercado

On Sunday, December 1, 2013, the Puerto Rican Cultural Center (PRCC)- Vida/SIDA celebrated World AIDS Day 2013 with four activities held in the Humboldt Park neighborhood of Chicago, IL. Over 200 participants attended the events.
The first event took place at La Casita de Don Pedro y Doña Lolita. José E. López, Executive Director of the PRCC introduced the attendees to the historical background of the space and painted the perspective of why World AIDS Day is significant to the PRCC-Vida/SIDA and the Humboldt Park community.

Gustavo Varela, Generation L Coordinator addressing the attendees. 

Photo credit: Pedro Mercado

“Vida/SIDA was created in 1988 as a response to the AIDS epidemic. Through this initiative we contribute to HIV prevention efforts and intervene in reducing new infections.” ~José E. López, PRCC Executive Director

Attendees moved to El Batey Urbano at 2620 W Division St. El Batey Urbano is the home of Generation L -PRCC-Vida/SIDA’s Mpowerment Program that serves Latino and African American MSM Youth. Gustavo Varela, Generation L Coordinator welcomed the visitors to their space and provided an overview of Generation L.

Jose Lopez, PRCC Executive Director dedicating the new Vida/SIDA office space to Bartolo Hernandez de Jesus. Photo credit: Pedro Mercado

The next event was the dedication of new PRCC-Vida/SIDA office space at 2640 W Division St. Juan Calderón, COO and Vida/SIDA Director welcomed the guests and talked about the importance of the programs and services that PRCC-Vida/SIDA offers. José E. López informed the attendees of the historical perspective of PRCC-Vida/SIDA named after Bartolo Hernández de Jesús since 1988. “He was a long time HIV advocate in NYC and a great friend of the PRCC. Bartolo died in 1989 of AIDS complications.


Ferd Eggan visiting Puerto Rico in the 1990s.

This new space is dedicated to our friend Bartolo Hernández de Jesús” said José E. López. José also spoke about Ferd Eggan, who passed away in 2007 and was a co-founder of ACT-UP, co-founder of VidaSIDA, solidarity activist and assistant principal of Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos Puerto Rican High School in the 1980s.

Bartolo Hernández de Jesús

Guests then transitioned to El Rescate at 2703 W Division St.. El Rescate is a Transitional Housing Living Program for LGBTQ or HIV Positive 18-24 year olds.

Vida/SIDA Celebrates 25th Anniversary as World AIDS Day Culminating Event; Activist Legends Carmen Velásquez & Dora García Honored

The culminating and fourth event of the Puerto Rican Cultural Center and VidaSIDA’s World AIDS Day Celebration that evening was the banquet at the Institute of Puerto Rican Arts & Culture, (IPRAC). Over 100 people attended the event, which took place in the Institute’s Main Gallery.

The centerpiece of the event was the awards reception and dinner to honor this year’s recipients. Honorable Judge Beatriz Santiago served as MC. Event speakers included José E. López, PRCC Executive Director, Juan Calderón VidaSIDA Director, and Roberto Sanabria, PRCC Board Member and one of Vida/SIDA’s co-founders.
This year’s award recipients included Carmen Velásquez, Executive Director of Alivio Medical Center who was honored with the Bartolo Hernández de Jesús Lifetime Achievement Award; Dora Garcia, Associate Executive Director of Alivio Medical Center, honored with the Bartolo Hernández de Jesús Community Service Award; and the Illinois Legislative Latino Caucus which received the Bartolo Hernández de Jesús Gratitude Award. Honorable Illinois State Representative Luis Arroyo received the award on behalf of the Caucus.

To end the powerful event, the PRCC’s Leslie Rodriguez sang the classic Puerto Rican song “En Mi Viejo San Juan” and Rodriguez-Espinosa family members Michael Rodriguez and Cindy Rodríguez-Espinosa, community members and co-owners of Nellie’s and Café Colao, were the subjects of a surprise birthday cake presentation.

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