When Roberto Esquivel was thinking of what his employer, the human services organization Servicios de la Raza, could do for a float for this year’s Pride parade in Denver, he remembered a moment months earlier. It was just after he joined the organization in the fall, and he went to a Día de los Muertos celebration.
“It inspired me, how our culture pays so much tribute and so much dedication to people who have departed,” Esquivel said. “The celebration of life and the celebration of those who are no longer with us was just very moving.”
With this Pride float, Esquivel decided he wanted to pay tribute to people who have died from HIV and AIDS.
Now the organization is bringing that vision to reality. The float features the artwork of Reyna Rodriguez from Brighton, who makes flowers out of paper.
“I use all kinds of paper, including toilet paper,” she said in Spanish through an interpreter.
The float will have about 400 of these flowers along with skulls made by a different artist, Selena Ramirez.
Esquivel said staff and volunteers will dance down the street with the float, to a playlist of Lady Gaga, Selena Quintanilla, Madonna and more.
They will also try to educate the crowd about the importance of getting tested for HIV and AIDS.
“We’re not out of the woods,” Esquivel said. Esquivel noted that 34.5 percent of people living with HIV in Colorado identify as Hispanic or Latino, a number larger than their portion of the population. He said testing is free and confidential.
Rodriguez is happy to lend her talents to this project. She normally makes flowers for events like quinceñeras and weddings, all for free. In this case, though, Servicios de la Raza is giving her a small monetary gift of thanks.
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