The Wall-Las Memorias Project is a community health and wellness organization dedicated to serving Latino, LGBT and other underserved populations through advocacy, education and building the next generation of leadership.
The Wall-Las Memorias Project serves low-income and hard to reach communities throughout Los Angeles—educating community members on the importance of HIV/AIDS, substance abuse prevention and community building in the LGBT community. For nearly 20 years, the organization has challenged, helped eradicate stigma, bigotry and created a safer place in Southern California for dialogue, community building, education and prevention services.
The Wall-Las Memorias Project has made it their mission to: provide access to specialized services designed to prevent HIV/AIDS, substance abuse and to promote societal wellness; guarantee that individual voices of the community are heard and that all are in agreement on the essential need for social change; promote the use of The AIDS Monument as an acknowledged catalyst for change and action; and engage the LGBT and faith communities, making both entities full partners in promoting wellness and eliminating stigma among ALL people.
Inspired by the events that occurred in the summer of 1993, The Wall-Las Memorias Project (TWLMP) was created with the mindset of bringing HIV/AIDS awareness to the Latino community. The movement began when founder, Richard Zaldivar was confronted with the news of a close friend testing positive for HIV. After observing the reaction and guilt in his friend, Richard was determined to create an avenue of dialogue dedicated to educating both his community and the rest of the world about HIV/AIDS prevention.
Using the knowledge gained from his days as community organizer and field deputy to legendary city councilman Art Snyder, Richard fostered the idea of building a wall panel of the Virgin de Guadalupe with the names of 200 people who died from AIDS. The wall would stand in the east-northeast area of Los Angeles as a physical representation of the struggle carried on by many men and women affected by the illness.
That idea quickly turned into a vision for a monument, one which would mark the beginning of a movement for change.
The Wall-Las Memorias Project was founded on December 1st, 1993 and work quickly began on bringing to life the vision of an AIDS monument in Lincoln Park. With strong community support for the project, local elected officials—including then State Assemblyman Gil Cedillo, Governor Gray Davis, and Los Angeles Mayor James Hahn—helped secure state and local public funding for the monument, making it the first publicly funded AIDS monument in the nation.
The campaign to construct the monument lasted eleven years and was often met by opposition, which was overcome through the strong support and generosity of the community. The project recruited support from youth, parents, LGBT, ministers from the Catholic, Protestant, Evangelical community as well as elected officials, entertainers and other community leaders.
Richard’s vision finally came to life on December 1st, 2004. The dedication of the AIDS monument was attended by over 1500 members from across the community. Laura Diaz of CBS L.A., Francisco Pinto from Univision, Dionne Warwick, Apollonia Kotero and Lupe Ontiveros, as well as the Los Angeles Gay Men’s Choir, were some of the luminaries present that night.
The Wall Las Memorias Project continues to impact the lives of millions of people—providing HIV/AIDS, substance abuse, and LGBT services throughout Los Angeles. It is nationally recognized for its social justice advocacy on the local, state and national levels. In addition, The Wall-Las Memorias Project also hosts one of the largest AIDS awareness events of its kind in the nation called, “Strike Out AIDS,” at Dodger Stadium—a continued tradition since 2000. As part of its philanthropic mission, the organization also supports, Alberque Las Memorias, an AIDS hospice in Tijuana, Mexico, named after the organization.
The AIDS Monument truly evolved into something bigger than itself. And from one man’s dream came a movement for change…