In Memory of Juan
May 12, 2006
To the Editor:
I was deeply saddened to hear of the death of Juan Mendez, a fellow soldier in the fight for LGBT rights and social justice (“Juan Mendez is Dead at 41,” by Paul Schindler, May 11-17). When I served as president of the Puerto Rican Initiative to Develop Empowerment (PRIDE), I met Juan and was immediately impressed by his knowledge of social, political, and public health issues. His articles in El Diario/La Prensa were always interesting and thought-provoking. He was one of the few openly gay Latino journalists in New York City, never shying away from giving his opinion on important issues.
When PRIDE fought the Puerto Rican government’s attempt to pass harmful HIV disclosure legislation, Juan’s support and encouragement was a factor in our victory in defeating the proposed legislation. Although we were not close friends, I nevertheless felt a sense of camaraderie and brotherhood with him.
Juan’s death is a sad reminder that AIDS continues to deprive our community of talented and dedicated activists, family, and friends. We must channel our sorrow and grief into continued activism and advocacy for those affected by HIV/AIDS.
Today is my birthday and I turn 41 years of age, the same age as Juan when he passed. My feelings of joy are mixed with sadness and reflection. I will never forget his contribution to the struggle and will always think of him fondly and proudly. To quote from the Puerto Rican poet Julia de Burgos’ “Una Cancion a Albizu Campos”—”Porque te fuiste, todo, de amor a Puerto Rico y todo, de amor patrio, a lo eterno regresas” (Because you left for love of Puerto Rico and for love of country, to the eternal you return).
Diego M. Santiago
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