July 2, 2012
Quilt in the Capital
by Cristina Gonzalez
The AIDS Memorial Quilt returns to Washington, DC, July 21 to 25.
Twenty-five years ago, a group of strangers gathered in an
empty storefront in San Francisco and powered up sewing machines. Looking for a
way to express their grief, they sewed together panel after panel, each
dedicated to loved ones lost to HIV/AIDS, and made a quilt. That small project
has grown into the AIDS Memorial Quilt, which is managed by the NAMES Project
The Quilt is now the largest piece of community folk art in
the world, made of 48,000 panels that take up 1.3 million square feet and weigh
in at 54 tons. It’s a historical witness of the epidemic that continues to grow
as new panels are added. By educating about HIV/AIDS, the Quilt also helps to
fight stigma and discrimination.
In a new initiative called Quilt in the Capital, our sister
publication POZ has partnered with the NAMES Project Foundation to bring the
Quilt to Washington, DC, this summer.
Parts of the Quilt will be displayed during the Smithsonian
Folklife Festival from June 27 to July 1. The Quilt will be displayed in its
entirety for the first time since 1996 from July 21 to 25, which coincides with
the XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012). It will be shown in 50
venues in the DC area, including the National Mall.
Among the tens of thousands of lives represented in the
diversity of the Quilt are the stories not only of gay white men, but also of
people of color, including women, children and heterosexuals. Below are three
stories of Latinos that make up that tapestry. Iris de la Cruz “My daughter, Iris De La Cruz, was one of the first female activists in
the world of AIDS. There was no place for women to go with their
illnesses. She was told that nothing she had was AIDS-related. She went
all over America to fight for women. She started a support group for
women with AIDS. She ran heterosexual dances so that people with AIDS
could touch and hug each other. She spoke at conferences to people in
DC, begging for women’s issues to be recognized. After she died
in 1991, I continued her fight and finally opened the first center for
women with AIDS in NY. It is called Iris House in my daughter’s honor.
It is located on Adam Clayton Powell Blvd in NYC.”
— Beverly Rotter, mother
“I was pregnant with my third child when my brother Jose was very
sick. I told him that if I had a son I would name the baby after him.
Right after I gave birth to little Joseph, we flew to California so that
Jose could meet my son. He held the baby up high in his arms and
radiated such joy. I believe he held on to see my son. Just one week
later, my brother died. My little Joseph knows all about his Uncle
Jose. He sees his pictures and mentions him in his prayers at night.
Jose will always be with me in my heart.”
— Luz Lujan, sister
Luis A. Nunez
“For so long I wanted to sit my brother down and tell him everything I
had not said. Instead, I wrote him a letter and the day he received it,
my brother had taken a turn for the worse. When my sister told me he
could no longer read, I made her promise that she would sit down and
read it to him until he understood every word…Two days later, which was
the day after Christmas, he died.”
— Lisa Timmer, sister
For more information about Quilt in the Capital, click here.
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