AIDS Monument in Lincoln Heights celebrates 25th anniversary with renovation

LOS ANGELES, Calif. (KABC) -- Twenty five years ago, Richard Zaldivar breached barriers in the Latino community when he shared his vision for "The Wall Las Memorias." It turned out to be the first monument of its kind in the country, and still stands at Lincoln Park on L.A.'s eastside, memorializing those lost to AIDS.

This year as they celebrate the organization's 25th anniversary, the memorial is undergoing a big renovation.

"It's about 10,000 square feet of monument that we lease from the city of Los Angeles," Zaldivar said.

But getting to this point wasn't easy. During the early 1990's Zaldivar received a lot of backlash and resistance.

However, he remained focused on his mission to create something for the Latino community who had been affected by the AIDS crisis and felt determined to honor his late friend who inspired the idea of 'las Memorias.'

"Back in the early 90s, my best friend was HIV positive... When David shared with me that he was HIV positive, it was a very empty, blank look on his face. A very lonely look," Zaldivar shared. "The Latino community was not talking about it. There was a fringe community; those who were impacted...Los Angeles being so dominant in the Latino Community, I wanted to give something back to the community, that they had a sense of ownership."

And so in 2003, Las Memorias AIDS Monument was unveiled. It was much more than incredible concrete structures and beautiful art murals, it was about building community and starting a much-needed conversation.

"That was the vision... Have a place where people could remember the names of their loved ones, but also provide an opportunity for dialogue," Zaldivar expressed.

He says the park monument is supposed to take you on a journey to pause, reflect, look at the names who passed away. Rock Hudson and Father Olivares, who was a Catholic priest who passed from AIDS, are some of the names on the wall.

As the organization embarks on an anniversary milestone, 'Las Memorias' monument renovation is set to be completed sometime this fall.

Zaldivar and his team hopes the community will gather on December first, World AIDS Day, with the newly renovated memorial to remember all the "Davids" lost to AIDS.

"This last 25 years, I think we've done a great job in doing that, in building that community," Zaldivar said.

For more details, go to: www.thewalllasmemorias.org

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