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Richard Zaldivar was born in Los Angeles in 1952. His dad was Mexican, his mom Mexican-American. Richard’s family was deeply Catholic and early on, Richard developed a deep relationship with God that evolved as Richard changed and grew. He never felt he had to leave God behind to be a gay man or a forceful advocate for society’s dispossessed.

Richard also felt a deep call early on to get involved in the sometimes-dirty work of politics. His first job was as a field deputy for Los Angeles councilman Art Snyder. He later served as a community liaison for then-Los Angeles City Attorney and future mayor James Hahn. Simultaneously, Richard organized youth and senior citizen support groups and co-produced a local radio talk show. At the age of 28, Richard was elected as one of the youngest appointees to the National Democratic Convention Platform Committee.

The dark side of Richard’s professional success was his personal battle with alcohol. In 1989, he finally fell to his knees, asking God’s help, but also resolved to find help on his own. Getting sober gave Richard the ability to tackle the biggest challenge of his life. 

In 1993, recognizing the need for a space where cultural barriers to HIV/AIDS education and outreach could be addressed and overcome, Richard organized the first annual Noche de las Memorias (Evening of Memories) for World AIDS Day. That night, Richard shared his vision for an AIDS monument to memorialize those lost to AIDS, and provide a place of remembrance and healing for those still here. Ten years later, The Wall / Las Memorias AIDS Monument became a reality – the first publicly funded AIDS monument in the U.S, and the basis for a grass-roots HIV/AIDS service organization that is still going strong and growing today.

Richard’s HIV/AIDS advocacy has been recognized in Los Angeles and far beyond. In 1997, OUT magazine named him one of the 100 Most Influential Gay or Lesbian Persons in the US, and in 2013, Richard received the LGBT Pride Recognition Award from the California Legislature.

In July 2016, Richard became one of the very first people to agree to an OUTWORDS interview – and when the camera malfunctioned, he graciously offered a rain check for the following day. Richard and his life partner Joselito live in downtown Los Angeles. Every chance they get, they slip off to Chavez Ravine, a couple of miles away, to watch their beloved Dodgers in action. 
Mason Funk: [00:00:00] Okay let's start. Where were we? Your name, first and last name and spell it for me.
Richard Zaldivar: Ready? It's Richard Zaldivar. So its R-I-C-H-A-R-D, last name is Z-A-L-D-I-V-A-R.
Mason Funk: Okay. I think we started, you were talking to me about your family, your childhood. Can I ask you again to give me some thoughts and reflections of that?
Richard Zaldivar: [00:00:30] A little bit about my family. My father was born in Mexico. My mother was born in Arizona. They met in Lincoln Heights in Los Angeles and got married. I am the middle of 3 children. The middle child syndrome is very real for me. We're 7 years apart and I grew up very acculturated and raised in a Catholic family.
Mason Funk: [00:01:00] What did that mean to you to be raised in Catholic family [inaudible]
Richard Zaldivar: Being raised in Catholic family as a young person was really ...
Richard Zaldivar: [00:01:30] I was very appreciative. It meant about going to church, having rules that you would follow in regards to your faith and religion. It's a way of identity, being Hispanic, just like being Irish. We're Catholic. It's about how you look at other people. It also taught me about how to be of service. Try to emulate the life of Christ
Richard Zaldivar: [00:02:00] and so it had a great impact on my life. I went to Catholic school, both my grammar and high school. It was a really great education that I don't think I could ever have gotten anywhere else.
Mason Funk: What was your conception of God in those early years? How did you see God?
Richard Zaldivar: [00:02:30] I think my conception of God in the earlier years was somewhat how I see God today. I was created by Him and He is of all power and might and love. Endless love. I know that if I wanted to be loved by God that there were certain things that I had to do, and that was be a good person.
Richard Zaldivar: [00:03:00] It also meant that there was a time and place when I do pass on to the next life that I would be able to be somewhere near God because God was good. That hasn't really changed today for me. He wasn't foreign. He was real. That was extremely important for me as a young person.
Mason Funk: [00:03:30] How important ... Can you move that mic closer to his ... Just scooch it in a little bit?
Goro Toshima: Yeah. Like this way?
Mason Funk: Yeah.
Goro Toshima: That same height, et cetera?
Goro Toshima: How's that?
Mason Funk: Perfect. Thank you guys. Did you come by this understanding of God by your own means, would you say primarily, or were there certain people who were very important to you? Were there priests? Were your parents important? Where did you gain your opinion of God?
Richard Zaldivar: [00:04:00] I gained a relationship or identification of God through my faith, but my faith was pretty much this great inspiration that I drew from my eldest aunt who was very Catholic and very loving and giving. She would give anything to anybody she would see,
Richard Zaldivar: [00:04:30] and I really loved that because when I saw her doing that, I also saw her being very happy and very solid as to who she was as a person. I had some incredible teachers in school. One was actually a principal of mine who was a Catholic nun, and once as I got older, I actually went back to Illinois and visited her in the retirement home
Richard Zaldivar: [00:05:00] just to tell her thank you, because she was just a sweet, nice woman. I just wanted to show her my appreciation for her role in my life.
Mason Funk: That's wonderful. As I've been a person of faith my whole life as well, even today I continue to explore my notions of God and I realize that in spite of Jesus having come in the New Testament and in spite the message that Jesus brought,
Mason Funk: [00:05:30] that a lot of my conceptions of God were very Old Testament and I was surprised. For some reason, I have this view of God as if Jesus never came. It doesn't sound like that was a problem for you. I don't mean to oversimplify, but God was always a very positive figure to you it sounds like.
Richard Zaldivar: God was a very powerful figure. In fact, when I was a youngster in grammar school, I actually wanted to become a priest.
Richard Zaldivar: [00:06:00] In high school I came very close to joining a [inaudible] of teaching brothers, Christian brothers, but then the real life started, and I realized that's not really what I wanted to do.
Mason Funk: How did you come to that realization?
Richard Zaldivar: I created some friendships, and one person I became very open and friendly to, and my life changed in high school, and then I started to realize that there was a lot more to life.
Richard Zaldivar: [00:06:30] Very closeted, I was starting to feel that I was a little different, and so I guess that sidetracked me from organized religion, but God has not really changed. He's still the same person. If anything, it's I who changed.
Mason Funk: Tell me more about that.
Richard Zaldivar: [00:07:00] I think I've changed as we grow in years and we face life through different lenses. We rededicate ourselves to things that we love, passions that we have. Through my life, I think that I've changed. There's been a lot of different processes but nevertheless, I still have done everything I wanted to do as I was a youngster,
Richard Zaldivar: [00:07:30] and that was give myself back to my community, back to God's kids, God's children, God's family. That's made me very happy through my entire life. Just like any relationship, the longer you're with someone, the more you learn more about them. I don't see God as anything different than having a best friend that you've cultivated a relationship for so many years. Relationships evolve but it's still very deep.
Goro Toshima: [00:08:00] [inaudible]
Mason Funk: In reading about you, I learned that from an early age, and now I'm understanding why, you were very public service oriented. Tell me about who were you, say in high school? Once you realized you weren't going to go into the priesthood, where did you begin to focus all your energies?
Richard Zaldivar: [00:08:30] In high school I did a lot of work on ... If you want, I can tell the kids to keep quiet.
Mason Funk: Really?
Richard Zaldivar: I can try, doesn't mean they will.
Mason Funk: Right. [crosstalk] in high school. When you realized you weren't going to go in the priesthood, you quickly began to get involved in community building and public service.
Richard Zaldivar: [00:09:00] It's interesting, in high school, I actually started volunteering. I taught religion at both a grammar school that I went to, to the public school children, and I also taught religion at the juvenile hall. They would, and they still do, have days where if the young people need any kind of religious direction,
Richard Zaldivar: [00:09:30] any religions can provide that. I did that, and it was really... one time it was very interesting, very moving for me. In Los Angeles, the juvenile hall, they have different levels of those who have legal problems. I was once in this ...
Richard Zaldivar: [00:10:00] The name of the ward was called the CD. It was AB, CD, and then EF, but the CD was very, very hard troubled kids. They were the bad bunch. I'll never forget going there and providing some religious training and some religious dialogue
Richard Zaldivar: [00:10:30] a few nights before Christmas eve, and the young people saying this was very powerful for them. They didn't understand why anybody would spend time with them right towards the highlight of Christmas season. It supported my belief that I have something to give, and I always believe you have something to give,
Richard Zaldivar: [00:11:00] something of the extraordinary or a certain talent, that it's your job to be able to provide that and to share that with the rest of the community of the world if you have it.
Mason Funk: Over the years, what has been your way of ... You're like the sower who sows seeds, and like a lot of people, you don't know when you take certain actions, how that might turn into something important down the road.
Mason Funk: [00:11:30] Sometimes that can be discouraging because you don't know all the time if it's going to bear any fruit. How have you lived in that uncertainty over the years?
Richard Zaldivar: I think over the years I've seen the work that I've done and the projects I have become involved with. Early on,
Richard Zaldivar: [00:12:00] I would measure whether or not I had an impact. I think it's a natural thing to do. After a while, it was really if I am looking at someone and I'm getting a positive response, or someone that I feel like they have changed, or if I've been able to change a little part of the system, that's all I need to know. It's not the masses, it's the individuals, and it's also the quality.
Richard Zaldivar: [00:12:30] I've done a lot of work in the community, but I also hope that I've inspired people to take action, to be who they are, to be honest, and to try to engage them into also being a part of changing systems.
Mason Funk: Because you just mentioned that, it reminds me about what we talked about briefly two days ago, that you talked about people and work here
Mason Funk: [00:13:00] at the Wall Las Memorias, and how that's one of the visions you have for them. They're employees of this organization but you're hoping that something bigger and more profound is happening in their lives.
Richard Zaldivar: Yeah. I think that one of the things I've really enjoyed in my life is not just starting an organization or building a monument, but it was really investing in the people I work with.
Richard Zaldivar: [00:13:30] I really take a lot of time and love to be able to sit down with staff and to have conversations and explain processes, politics, strategies. Also to try to help them out to believe who they are and believe in themselves, because I think that's about investment in building a solid community, and I think that's important.
Mason Funk: [00:14:00] I don't really know what you did in the years prior to starting this organization. Can you tell me about your twenties and maybe your thirties, and what you were doing professionally, and what you were focusing on?
Richard Zaldivar: When I was twenty years old, I saw an injustice in the community. When I was about nineteen years old,
Richard Zaldivar: [00:14:30] I was president of a Junior Knights of Columbus, a Catholic group but they were for young people. I would organize drug awareness nights and community meetings. Nobody had trained me, I just did it. I invited elected officials, and it was right here in Northeast Los Angeles. One of the guys, one of the elected officials who actually responded was a German Irish politician who was Republican at the time,
Richard Zaldivar: [00:15:00] serving in the LA City Council. He responded, his office responded to a lot of our concerns. Within that time frame, there was a lot of change in the political landscape. Hispanics were trying to gain more ground. There were several attempts to recall him, and the reality is it was all really based on race.
Richard Zaldivar: [00:15:30] As much as I was and continue to support people in my community, I also thought that was racist, and I thought it was unfair to the democratic process that you remove people from office if they have committed a felony or even possibly a serious misdemeanor, but this wasn't the case. I went and I volunteered my time, and we won a recall election
Richard Zaldivar: [00:16:00] and he made me an assistant. I became a field deputy. I was there thirteen, fourteen years. I did a great job. I was a democratic national person for Ted Kennedy, worked on the platform committee with some really incredible, powerful people at the time, so I was really really active. But during those years, I was not out.
Richard Zaldivar: [00:16:30] It really became problematic. Although extremely successful and I almost ran for office a few times myself during that period of time, I also was an active alcoholic. So it wasn't until later in my life that I bottomed out from alcoholism at the same time
Richard Zaldivar: [00:17:00] that my best friend and former partner disclosed he was HIV positive. It was interesting because during that time and period that I was living in the closet and doing this amazing stuff throughout the country, literally, there was something about me wanting to do something more for people like me. When I bottomed out and got sober, I confronted my best friend's illness,
Richard Zaldivar: [00:17:30] and in those days it was scary. He had a horrible time accepting his status. I just realized that I knew what gay Latino men were going through at that period of time, and I didn't want anybody else to go through that. Learning from my days and working in City Hall, I came up with this idea about building an AIDS monument.
Richard Zaldivar: [00:18:00] It's incredible because it was my dream, and I decided to follow through on a dream. Then build confidence to make sure that I went through follow up. I had lots of dreams but never really acted upon them. As I did that, the LA Times came up to me and said, "We're interested in this dream of yours of building the monument." Then they started asking some personal questions,
Richard Zaldivar: [00:18:30] and so I came out of the closet in the LA Times, which is really, it was a great ... It had been a challenge for me all those years, because I had all these relationships with churches and unions and politicians and systems, but now I was coming out in the LA Times. It was great, and so that was a great contribution. I learned a lot in those years at City Hall, but never looked back.
Mason Funk: [00:19:00] Wow, that's a lot. That's a lot of story there. You mentioned roughly in high school you began to feel you were a little different. What was it like living those years closeted? We all have heard stories, but everyones is a little bit different. I'd love to hear yours.
Richard Zaldivar: [00:19:30] I think as a child, you know about yourself. I know I loved I Love Lucy, and I loved Lucille Ball. Who doesn't? But I also was in love with Desi Arnaz. I had these inklings as a child and in those days, I loved to watch Superman because Superman was hot, but I never had a space.
Richard Zaldivar: [00:20:00] There was no such thing as being attracted to other men at that time. I was very creative as a young person, but being the child of an alcoholic and then later on an alcoholic, I stifled my creativity with my own self esteem issues. As I grew older,
Richard Zaldivar: [00:20:30] I had a best friend at the time. We were best friends, but it was more than just best friends, and it also impacted my life because there was disruption in that whole relationship at one point, and it really devastated my life.
Richard Zaldivar: [00:21:00] So through that entire span of years from high school until my mid thirties, I dated women and fooled around with men. What a lot of us did in those days, a lot of Hispanic men would do and they still do in different parts of the country or the world. It was troubling.
Richard Zaldivar: [00:21:30] It was great because you almost have the best of both worlds, and I came out and my one girlfriend found out about me. It was somewhat devastating but, at the same token, liberating because someone else pointed out to me, Hey, you love other men?
Richard Zaldivar: [00:22:00] I didn't realize that I did, I just know what I wanted. It was a different, difficult, and challenging time for me.
Mason Funk: What was the relationship between ... Complicated, I'm sure, but between starting to drink too much for your own good and your being closeted,
Mason Funk: [00:22:30] how did your coming out and getting sober affect each other? First, how did those two things happen? How do they relate to each other?
Richard Zaldivar: I think one, as a recovering alcoholic and have been twenty-seven years, I need to say that I believe that it's genetic, and so I have my family.
Richard Zaldivar: [00:23:00] My parents were alcoholics, my father's side of the family was heavily alcohol and drugs. I was already born into a situation. Being an alcoholic, you're dealing with a lot of issues. Anxiety, the fear, the level of self esteem, and I never had self esteem as a kid.
Richard Zaldivar: [00:23:30] If you don't have self esteem as an individual, it's very, very difficult to navigate your own sexual identity. I didn't have that as a young person. I was always very quiet, I was always in the corner, always afraid to take initiative. Then society at that time was not open, so you really didn't have a lot of opportunity, a lot of space to be openly gay
Richard Zaldivar: [00:24:00] or even be quietly closeted gay. People of color, our cultures are different and as a Hispanic community, I think Hispanic community tolerate homosexuality. They just don't talk about it. Theres great injury to individual soul when things are not talked about and people are not acknowledged.
Mason Funk: [00:24:30] That's something I really want to delve into is the particularities in Latino culture in terms of how it ... That's been part of your life's work as well. Helping other people ... I'm just trying to figure out what that sound is. Is it a bird?
Goro Toshima: Yeah it's some sort of bird.
Mason Funk: Okay, good. Problem solved.
Mason Funk: [00:25:00] It's interesting to me that as a young person, you essentially say you have no self esteem, but you had this very positive relationship with a God figure who you felt loved you, and you also were so high achieving. How did those different pieces fit together?
Richard Zaldivar: I was high achieving, yes and no, because in those days the way you measured high achievement was through school,
Richard Zaldivar: [00:25:30] and I was always a C average student. I was also a sickly individual. I had asthma develop, and I almost died when I was six years old. When you are raised in a religious family as Catholic and when you have a relationship with your family, your mom, but then you see that your mom needs help
Richard Zaldivar: [00:26:00] and you can't help her, you have no clue, the only person you really reach out to is God. That was my only hope. Don't get me wrong, my mom was an incredible woman and my mom's family gave me so much structure as a typical huge, large, Latino Catholic family, but as a child, you're still alone. You're lonely.
Richard Zaldivar: [00:26:30] Throughout grammar school, I never had friends. High school, I didn't have friends until I was a senior. It was a different time. I think that through all my personal journeys as an individual helped me look at the world differently, and also it helped me understand the other men in our community
Richard Zaldivar: [00:27:00] that are at risk for HIV and have been at risk for HIV, because I understand what they go through and what they've gone through.
Mason Funk: What caused you to, as you put it, bottom out?
Richard Zaldivar: I had a number of drinking experiences, whether they were blackouts or getting stopped by the police
Richard Zaldivar: [00:27:30] that woke me up to the reality that I can not continue doing this. I had some experimentation with drugs, but nothing as great as alcohol. I remember being so depressed at my place in Alhambra,
Richard Zaldivar: [00:28:00] and I didn't know what depression was. Well, I kind of knew what depression was, but I had never been this depressed. I remember being on my knees and asking God for his help and said, "You know what, God? I need your help, but I also will help myself." I used to hear and I still hear people say, "I'm going to pray to God for a new car or for a lover or for a partner." You don't do that. You don't negotiate with God.
Richard Zaldivar: [00:28:30] I said, "No, I will work towards it." It was literally the next day I did some research and found this psychiatrist and got to see him, and he put me on medications, but he also said, "You need to go see a psychotherapist." It had been my real first psychotherapist. I tried going to therapy with a psychiatrist years before that, with a person who was not of my race or religion or culture.
Richard Zaldivar: [00:29:00] It didn't work. Plus, I don't think I was ready. This woman happened to have been a God shot. She happened to be Hispanic, around my age, lesbian, and also in recovery. At that point, it says God's taking care of me. That's what started my new life.
Mason Funk: [00:29:30] How did those first months in recovery change you? How did you respond emotionally? I don't know if you did, like going to a meeting every single day for a certain amount of time, but I know this is a time of incredible change for a lot of people and [inaudible]
Richard Zaldivar: [00:30:00] When I started my recovery, it was slow, because being a pessimist myself at that time, I didn't necessarily trust it was going to work. I didn't understand the people I was in a room with. I thought they were all crazy, and so I did what I had to do. I attended meetings, I kept quiet, starting building a small circle of friends, and realized
Richard Zaldivar: [00:30:30] that a lot of stuff that I was going through, they were going through themselves. So I wasn't that crazy. Within time, I checked back in with life. I was in depression for about five months. It was not very long. I've never been back in depression in twenty-seven years,
Richard Zaldivar: [00:31:00] but I think that it's really up to the individual. The other thing that really worked with me in early recovery was I wanted to do something for my community. Didn't know what it was, and so I think that when I was three or four years sober and thought about the AIDS monument, it gave me something to look forward to, something to believe in, something to do.
Richard Zaldivar: [00:31:30] It was difficult starting the project in the first few years, but it was a very awesome experience, because sometimes you were just alone with your thought and God. You say, "How am I going to do this?" You just do the footwork and keep your belief system and stay sober,
Richard Zaldivar: [00:32:00] and people came into your life, things started to happen. It was very meaningful for me.
Mason Funk: How did the idea come to you to embark on this project to build an AIDS monument. When and where? Where were you?
Richard Zaldivar: It was summer of 1993.
Richard Zaldivar: [00:32:30] I had, in working for the city councilman, oversaw the summer youth employment program, where non-profits would get jobs for disadvantaged young people. So I would monitor the council district's non-profits, so there's like 100 of them, eighty of them. I would make sure that they got their funding, that they were getting paid from the city on time,
Richard Zaldivar: [00:33:00] but some of the projects were amazing. A few in particular that worked in art really left a huge impression in my mind. That was a lot of the gang members would get summer jobs. You think, what would gang members do? Many of them were very creative, and they painted some of the greatest murals on the eastside of Los Angeles,
Richard Zaldivar: [00:33:30] and the majority of those murals during that period of time always had a religious connotation. Some that still stick out of my mind are those ... There's a community in the eastside called Happy Valley, and there's some old murals that gang members painted of the Virgin of Guadalupe. Today, you still see those little shrines and there's candles and flowers there.
Richard Zaldivar: [00:34:00] The murals have long faded, and I thought at the time, the Hispanic community or Latino community didn't understand or accept the fact that HIV/AIDS was their issue. It was always white gay men from the west side of town. I figured they need to own the epidemic. What better way than to create an opportunity for artists to paint murals and from the community so that the community participates
Richard Zaldivar: [00:34:30] and develops their own idea of what HIV AIDS is and have a greater conversation about it. The idea was to paint one large mural of the Virgin Mary, and then have 200 names of people who died from AIDS somewhere on the eastside of Los Angeles. Within three months, I put together, I brought together a committee and it included a few Catholic priests, and one of them said, "Richard, you don't need one wall.
Richard Zaldivar: [00:35:00] You need a monument, and you can do it, and the community deserves it." In 1993, on World AIDS Day we founded the organization. We had our first event and within months, there was an architectural rendering for the monument and I said, "Okay I don't know how to do this, but we're going to do it." We organized the community which included faith folks,
Richard Zaldivar: [00:35:30] people from churches, politicians, union leaders, LGBTQ, gay people, gay men, residents, celebrities, Hispanic celebrities. It was really great. We got the attention of then assemblyman Gil Sadillo who was in the state, and he loved the idea. He'd been a union organizer in his previous years and he said,
Richard Zaldivar: [00:36:00] "This is great. I want to get the state to help support this." He put in a request for $500,000 from the state of California for the monument. Our job was to organize the state legislature and community, and so we did that. We did a petition gathering campaign, we brought in our community contacts to start strategizing as to
Richard Zaldivar: [00:36:30] how we were going to work the state legislature and the legislative offices to get their support. We did research on these guys, we knew what was going to open their ears and their hearts, and we were going to do that. Governor Gray Davis signed the legislation and we got $400,000 for the AIDS monument.
Mason Funk: [00:37:00] When you talk about organizing the community, I think what's required for someone like me who's not part of this culture and who doesn't really understand first hand what it means to organize this particular community. You've got this very Latino community that's very faith based, so there's a lot of concern and what does this mean that we're building a monument to people who have died of a disease, but it was wrong in the first place, they should have never been doing those things.
Mason Funk: [00:37:30] It's so unique, I would imagine, to your community. I want you to try to explain to a person who's not part of that community what some of the forces were that you were up against, and what it meant to have priests who might be preaching from the pulpit on Sunday that homosexuality is wrong, to get involved in an effort like this, for example.
Richard Zaldivar: That's a good question. I think what was important back then,
Richard Zaldivar: [00:38:00] as is important in any campaign around health or controversial issues, is that the person who's leading the charge should be of that culture. Second of all is there has to be a master strategy. In this situation, building the monument, I had all these contacts that I created when I worked for the councilman, and so they were a built in network.
Richard Zaldivar: [00:38:30] They knew me and they trusted me. I as a messenger was already trusted, and so outreaching to the different groups. They were already open to hearing what HIV/AIDS was all about. It was actually very easy for me.
Richard Zaldivar: [00:39:00] One story I'll tell you which was one of the first organizations I went out to was a group called the Mothers of East LA. I knew the president of the Mothers of East of LA from her son's work at the high school I went to, and the high school that we helped save. This is a group of environmentalist mothers from twenty-three Catholic parishes in the east side of Los Angeles,
Richard Zaldivar: [00:39:30] and she had a board meeting for me. I went over to meet with her and her board with one of my board members at the time, a gentleman by the name of Ron Castillo, who was already living with AIDS. We went, and we sat down, and we gave them HIV 101. Ron talked about his situation as a person living with AIDS and then I asked them for their support. I'll never forget.
Richard Zaldivar: [00:40:00] It was a meeting right in Boyle Heights, and we're meeting at the dining room table, and behind the one wall was the picture of the Virgin of Guadalupe. I saw all these women, one older in particular, and I said, "I know I want to do this, but what happens if there's any rejection? How do I respond to that?" One of the older women
Richard Zaldivar: [00:40:30] kept on nodding her head as we were talking about this, and I said, "Oh my God, she's really going to shoot us down. She's probably getting really angry." She was the first one to say, "I support this. I learned about HIV/AIDS because I watch the Cristina show all the time." The women voted unanimously, and with that I went to all the other churches and other institutions and said, "The Mothers of East LA support us on building an AIDS monument here on the east side of Los Angeles.
Richard Zaldivar: [00:41:00] Will you?" That worked. That worked so well. We really didn't have any repercussion. Didn't mean that we got all the support we wanted, because I think at that time and still today, there's still institutional homophobia. So whether it's city hall or different bureaucratic offices. Right before the final approval from the city council,
Richard Zaldivar: [00:41:30] because you have to get their approval when you're building a monument on park land, we got some horrible homophobia directed at on our space.We had a few death threats. It was a painful time and a challenging time, but it was also a great time, because it taught us how to walk through with it very focused.
Richard Zaldivar: [00:42:00] At the time, my staff and community members moved forward not even having to address the homophobia or the hatred or the death threats, but just walk forward free of intimidation, because we knew what we had to do.
Mason Funk: With the kids?
Goro Toshima: Yeah, it's in the light background. It's not too bad but it's audible.
Mason Funk: Okay. They seemed to have quieted down again so we'll just keep on going. How are we for time?
Goro Toshima: [00:42:30] Fourty-five minutes.
Mason Funk: Okay. Great. Also I'm just noticing the mic does seem to be a little bit further direction than he actually is.
Goro Toshima: Okay. Should I slide it back?
Mason Funk: Sure.
Goro Toshima: Okay. It still sounds good but-
Mason Funk: Yeah I'm sure [crosstalk].
Mason Funk: [00:43:00] Maybe you can talk some about the particular difficulties that Latino men face. As you've cited, for example, the rates of HIV and AIDS have been increasing among Latino men, where as elsewhere they've been decreasing. Maybe just before we get to statistics, what are the particular challenges that are very unique to Latino men in regard to HIV/AIDS?
Richard Zaldivar: [00:43:30] I think some of the challenges that Latino men face, and they're multi-layered because we're also talking about different subgroups of Latinos. You could be someone who's Mexican, born in Mexico, or you can talk about first generation or second generation Mexican American, or you can talk about Central American, so there's a lot of different challenges in talking about Latino population. Those challenges are so much different if you're Caribbean.
Richard Zaldivar: [00:44:00] If you're Cuban or Puerto Rican, who have a different attitude or mentality when it comes to sexuality. Little bit more liberating than you would from a Mexican perspective. But the challenges, one is in our community, in our culture we don't talk about stuff, and sexuality is one of the things we don't talk about. The fear or the role that machismo plays in our culture is still very heavy.
Richard Zaldivar: [00:44:30] To many, the perception that gay men are effeminate doesn't hold well with the father, even though the father is absent in the home. There's all these expectations of gay men and the mom, the tremendous pressure that mothers put on their children when it comes to they want to have grandchildren,
Richard Zaldivar: [00:45:00] and we've had men talk about those pressures. There are different challenges. The language, economics. I know of many Mexican men who come to the states to work. They're married back home, they have a family, and they come to work, seasonal work, and when they're out here,
Richard Zaldivar: [00:45:30] they're participating in bisexual activities. Whether they identify bisexual or not, they do sex. Many times, they have taken the virus back to the family and back to their wives or girlfriends. Understanding culture is extremely important in trying to address a lot of those issues are very important.
Richard Zaldivar: [00:46:00] Understanding culture. For example, in Mexico, many times a man who is giving, the aggressor, the aggressive role in sex, is not necessarily gay. It's usually the passive, the receiver, and so when you come here it's a lot different. There's culture clashes
Richard Zaldivar: [00:46:30] that we have to be aware of, and so I think that's why it's really important when we look at HIV/AIDS prevention and as far as we do, it's also about leadership development. How do we provide leadership skills to these men? They're not only dealing with sexuality, but all of the other parts of their life that really make them whole. Addressing where they live, addressing housing, getting active
Richard Zaldivar: [00:47:00] and engaged in systems that they feel that they can change, because that's part of the same. Whether men use condoms or not or PrEP.. If you're using a condom or PrEP, you're an activist, because you're taking action. So we would like to be able to expand that interpretation of activism so that they change the communities in which they live. Did I answer your question?
Mason Funk: Yeah. I love the details. I always love the details. I love hearing you say that one particular challenge in,
Mason Funk: [00:47:30] generally speaking, Latino culture is that there's a lot of pressure to produce grandchildren. Never would have just thought of that. Can you just expand on that a little bit?
Richard Zaldivar: I think as Latino gay men, and you're not out of the closet to mom... First of all, as Latino men, gay men, we form a very special bond with mom
Richard Zaldivar: [00:48:00] that really can not be replicated for the most part with the rest of the family. Mothers kind of know and they feel for their child if they know that their child is struggling with their sexual orientation. They will never bring it up because they feel that it's intrusive into that person. Plus, they really don't want to know. As long as their child is safe and takes care of themselves,
Richard Zaldivar: [00:48:30] then that's okay. I think sometimes knowing that their child is very special, they also want to make sure that they have grandchildren from their child. In some corridors of our community, it's expected that Joe or Jose or Matthew is going to provide some grandchildren. That's what mom wants.
Richard Zaldivar: [00:49:00] Dad wants him to be a player and bring home some good looking girls. You could see there that within ourselves, we could become conflicted, and it's a struggle and we have to ask ourselves, are we good enough? Are we the good son? Usually we don't hear that in our places of faith. Among gay men, faith is extremely important, although they run from it.
Richard Zaldivar: [00:49:30] I have learned in the work that we've done here, we ask the greatest fears that gay men have about their sexual orientation. There are three of the top greatest fears, one is God, two is the mother would find out, and three, themselves, their own internal homophobia. They are very common among gay men.
It's always these challenges, these pressures that men deal with. For a lot of Hispanic men, they are bisexual. I think among the gay community itself, bisexuals are not necessarily well received and are often questioned, but whether or not we want to believe it, there are many men that are truly bisexual,
Richard Zaldivar: [00:50:30] and I think there's a high rate of bisexual activity among Hispanic men, or men who have sex with men that may not self identify as bisexual. Lots of that happens in our community. We're always constantly trying to figure out how do we support those men in their lives.
Mason Funk: [00:51:00] As a side note, one of these first fourty interviews were doing for OUTWORDS, we've gotten great buy in from the bisexual community and some amazing activists. I do feel like the bisexual community is so overlooked, it's so misunderstood. [inaudible] bring out the same old statements about they just can't make up their mind. Something absurd like that, and these are gay men.
Richard Zaldivar: Sex today is so much more fluid. People don't even have labels. It doesn't really matter.
Mason Funk: [00:51:30] Here's one more question about grandchildren. It may seem self evident to you, but what does it mean to your typical Latino mom? Why are grandchildren so important? What do they mean to her?
Richard Zaldivar: What does it mean to the mother that she has grandchildren from her sons? A sense of family. We come from big families. Although the families have gotten smaller, they're still families.
Richard Zaldivar: [00:52:00] So I think mothers want grandchildren. It's part of their DNA, and so they want to make sure they have grandchildren from all of their children who are married. But again it's that relationship with a son, with a gay son that's, You know, Im a little closer to you for some reason. The other thing I've also learned is Latino gay men and their mothers have...
Richard Zaldivar: [00:52:30] part of that great bond is that they suffer the same kind of sense of lack of privilege in their family. The role of their husband, that machismo. The fact that we are afraid to speak up in certain places or identify our needs. The mother and the son also experience that, gay sons.
Richard Zaldivar: [00:53:00] There's some kind of closeness, a close bond that I've seen over the period of time. The fear of rejection. Maybe sometimes violence. They both experience that, so they're very unique.
Mason Funk: Something just clicked for me that I think I partially grasped before, but what you're saying is that gay sons and their mothers tend to be closer, so the mother's want these sons to produce grandchildren even more than their other sons, and there's the [inaudible] so to speak. Is that correct?
Richard Zaldivar: [00:53:30] Yeah, that's right.
Mason Funk: Could you clarify that for us and maybe expand on it if you have any more to say?
Richard Zaldivar: I think the mothers and sons, there's a close bond for them and they would like to be able to-
Mason Funk: Say anything about Latino culture or something like that.
Richard Zaldivar: Within the Latino culture, there's a closeness between the mother and the son, and the mother would love to have grandchildren. Am I answering your question?
Mason Funk: [00:54:00] I wanted you to state one more time clearly that when the son is gay, there may tend to be a certain kind of closeness that the mother doesn't experience with her other sons, and therefore she wants this particular son to produce children maybe even a little bit more than her other sons, but this son is less likely to produce children which causes some conflict internally.
Richard Zaldivar: [00:54:30] Among our community many times, the mothers, because they have a close bond with their son, they really would want to prefer that son to have children.
Mason Funk: You're talking about the gay son?
Richard Zaldivar: The gay son.
Mason Funk: Okay so just-
Richard Zaldivar: I think among the Latino culture many times, a mother would like to have her gay son have children. It's because mothers want grandchildren, and especially from someone that they may have a close relationship with or identify with.
Richard Zaldivar: [00:55:00] The other thing that's so unique about our culture is Latinos don't move far away from home, so by having children, it keeps the family closer together geographically. It's pretty interesting that Latinos ... There's difficulties for Latinos coming out of the closet, because of proximity to their family.
Richard Zaldivar: [00:55:30] They don't move outside of state, they don't move outside of region, it's very seldom. Often, they live in the same community that they grew up, whereas other communities, it's easy for them to leave the family, go across state, from one part of the country to the other, and all of a sudden be out of the closet. We don't do that as Hispanics. It's much different. Gay men stay close to mom.
Richard Zaldivar: [00:56:00] They also feel there's a responsibility to keep an eye after her and watch over her.
Mason Funk: That's really interesting. Very moving. Then, I had another question which is: again, I know we're talking generalities about your culture, which you can only go so far, but do mothers have a particular feeling about the grandchildren produced by their sons as opposed to their daughters? Is that a distinction that's worth exploring, or is it just basically grandchildren?
Richard Zaldivar: [00:56:30] I think it's just grandchildren to be honest with you.
Mason Funk: It's not like a special role for the children produced by your son as opposed to, say, your daughter?
Richard Zaldivar: No.
Mason Funk: Okay. Another question, and then we'll move on because there's still more to cover, clearly, but I did want you to maybe peel back a few more of the layers about the differences among the groups within Latino culture. You mentioned one for example,
Mason Funk: [00:57:00] Caribbeans tend to me more free and open about their sexuality, and then you have your Central Americans and your Mexicans. Could you just peel that back for us a little bit and help us understand? Otherwise, people, as you know, they'll just group them all together.
Richard Zaldivar: I think that there's so many differences when we're talking about gay and bisexual men or men who have sex with men or the perceptions of gay men in different Latino communities. I find,
Richard Zaldivar: [00:57:30] I tend to see a higher level of machismo among Mexican background. Even Central American communities. Even with the Caribbean communities. Machismos is looked upon differently in Mexico and in Mexican American cultures than they are looked upon on Puerto Rico or in Cuban American communities. I think we need to be cognizant of that.
Richard Zaldivar: [00:58:00] The same holds true when you deal with countries in South America. Whether you're from Venezuela or Colombia, Argentina, you kind of go back and see where are the European influences that play a role there that really define men a little differently. When we're talking about gay or bisexual Hispanic Latino men, there are differences that we need to be conscientious of.
Mason Funk: [00:58:30] Great. How are we doing for time?
Goro Toshima: Thirty minutes.
Mason Funk: Okay. After twelve years, when the monument was dedicated, how did that feel to you? What was it like after twelve years of consistent ... I mean for twelve years ...
Richard Zaldivar: [00:59:00] Our campaign to construct the monument took twelve years, and it taught me a lot of patience during that period of time, a lot of faith. But once the monument was dedicated, it took a load off my shoulders because my dream had been fulfilled, but my work had not been accomplished.
Richard Zaldivar: [00:59:30] So it was a great time to reflect, and then really look upon what my next level of work would be, my next project, my next goal, but it wasn't finished. My work wasn't finished.
Mason Funk: Would you say that the overwhelming feeling was Phew, okay, but?
Richard Zaldivar: [01:00:00] It was really a big deal to finish a monument. It was something to be proud of, but there was rest just for a bit and then it was okay, what's the next project?
Mason Funk: What would you say is the importance of this monument? I've been to it, it's beautiful. It's very, of the place and the people, very grounded, not highfalutin,
Mason Funk: [01:00:30] but it's a monument with names of people who have died. What is the importance of that? Why this monument, these names in this form that it takes? Maybe just describe it for us for someone who's never seen it.
Richard Zaldivar: It's interesting that the monument is now going thirteen years and we're looking to renovate the monument. I think in looking at the contribution the monument has made to the community,
Richard Zaldivar: [01:01:00] it's not just ... First of all, the monument is about 10,000 square feet. Half of it, about 5,000 square feet, contains a walk way, eight wall panels, six painted murals dedicated to or with a theme of people living with AIDS. An arch, some park benches, and then room for 8,000 names of people who died from AIDS.
Richard Zaldivar: [01:01:30] It was designed after the [inaudible] of Quetzalcoatl, the Aztec god of health and knowledge. It was more than just being a monument. It really is about a journey. As you walk through the monument itself, it takes you on a little journey. The greatest contribution I think the monument has played to the community is not just the names on a wall
Richard Zaldivar: [01:02:00] or the art painted on murals, but it was about a journey that we took the community through. The entire process of engaging the Latino community in Los Angeles, one of the largest Latino communities in the country, to reflect about where we were on HIV/AIDS in 1993 and how we could address it culturally. How could we be sensitive to the community?
Richard Zaldivar: [01:02:30] How we would bring in other players, whether it be union members, faith based, gay men, gay folks to the table along with your traditional folks and sports figures and Latino celebrities? How do we create a larger conversation? How do we build community? That's what we've done. I think that's been the greatest contribution to the community, and to the HIV community,
Richard Zaldivar: [01:03:00] and to the national level is that we created the opportunity, we created the form. That's the greatest success of building the AIDS monument.
Mason Funk: It's really not about ... In some ways, the monument is almost secondary to the journey that everybody went on together to create it.
Richard Zaldivar: It's been a catalyst for conversation. Its been a catalyst for change.
Mason Funk: [01:03:30] That's great. When you realized there was more work to be done, tell me this. As you were gathering the momentum, the funds, and the support to get the monument built, was your organization already starting to diversify and do other things, or was that more after?
Richard Zaldivar: I think our organization became more diversified after the monument was built.
Mason Funk: [01:04:00] Maybe you just start by saying the organization and just name it.
Richard Zaldivar: The Wall Las Memorias project after the monument was constructed took a breather, and we looked at what HIV/AIDS was at that time and we continued to do that work, but we also knew there were other elements that were contributing factors that needed to be addressed. So we expanded in the area of substance abuse and mental health.
Richard Zaldivar: [01:04:30] Addressing mental health needs in our community and advocating for more services. I think, again, the monument served as a catalyst and doing more work in the area of HIV and also with the transgender community to making sure that we're all on the same page when it comes to health prevention and health services, and also for fighting for LGBTQ and workers issues in our community.
Mason Funk: [01:05:00] What are some of the ... Speaking of transgender individuals, as you make that work focus on there. Within Latino culture, what are some of the particular challenges that transgender people face?
Richard Zaldivar: I think the transgender community faces tremendous obstacles in the Hispanic community. I think the whole area of a child coming out
Richard Zaldivar: [01:05:30] or dealing with their sexual gender to the parents has been a huge challenge. It's difficult for parents to accept, and it's very easy to dismiss their children, and those children then become homeless or abandoned. When I talk about children, I'm talking about any age, because we're still children.
Richard Zaldivar: [01:06:00] That's been a real big challenge in our community, so I think that the next wave of education in our community needs to include education about the transgender community. I think we all need to be educated more, because we're not there yet. One thing is to receive education and have awareness, but the other one is to be on the streets and live it with them, and I think we need to do a better job of doing that.
Mason Funk: [01:06:30] What is your organization Wall Las Memorias? How have you been able to begin to enact some tangible actions in that area, as you say, being on the streets with the transgender community, as opposed to providing generalized education?
Richard Zaldivar: One of the jobs we do at the Wall Las Memorias project is to outreach to the transgender community and bring them into our setting, providing weekly or bi-monthly support groups,
Richard Zaldivar: [01:07:00] but also reaching them on the street providing HIV tests. The other part of it is really linking them to a larger conversation about spirituality, because we think that's what's really needed. I think the most important outcome of that would be to then to also get trained and for them, empower them to become open, more vocal leaders in our community, in our city.
Mason Funk: [01:07:30] I like that you mentioned again the spirituality. You undoubtedly have come across and continue to come across people who have a lot of hurt from the church, who may have felt rejected or found rejected. It sounds like this is important for you because your own relationship with God is so important,
Mason Funk: [01:08:00] but what are some of the ways you work with people who come in really feeling wounded by any mention of God bringing up very negative feelings? [inaudible] helpful?
Richard Zaldivar: I think it's important to address the spirituality of our community, whether it be gay or bisexual, transgender or lesbian. They may have been wounded by the church, or they may not have been wounded. They may not even have a connection to a church,
Richard Zaldivar: [01:08:30] because we also have to understand, they're coming from wounded families who may never have had a connection with a church. But we do know that there's a void in many of our people's lives. I think our job is try to connect that, fill that void by connecting the spirit or the higher power to the individual folks, and then helping them develop that kind of relationship.
Richard Zaldivar: [01:09:00] That's what's really important. It's interesting along our work that there are a lot of wounded Catholic LGBT Latinos. A lot of our conversation around that has been, "Okay, but we can still be who we are, but know how do we heal from those wounds of abandonment and rejection?
Richard Zaldivar: [01:09:30] At the same token, how do we become activists?" I have to remind them, and I do very often, is that question someone poses me. You're a gay activist but yet you're a Catholic. I say, "Yes, and I go to church every Sunday with my partner, and we sit in the front row of the Cathedral in front of a conservative archbishop." I tell them I'm also political,
Richard Zaldivar: [01:10:00] because I know that when I abandon that seat, then I have no power. I remind them there was a time in the democratic party that banned a gay caucus, and so we didn't leave the democratic party. Or when the world banned homosexuality, we didn't leave the earth, we changed it.
Richard Zaldivar: [01:10:30] I think that our job is if we really believe in our faith, and we really believe that we deserve a place at the table, we don't leave the table. We change it. That's really important for a lot of our folks out in the communities. There's many out there that are Hispanic that are gay or bisexual, transgender, or lesbian who are Catholic, and I have to remind them it's all about changing the system.
Mason Funk: [01:11:00] Do you want to pause real quick? How did your relationship with your family origin, parents change when you yourself got sober and came out?
Richard Zaldivar: When I got-
Mason Funk: [01:11:30] Hang on just one second, I'm actually going to close that door[inaudible][crosstalk]
Richard Zaldivar: When I got sober and I came out of the closet, I called my favorite aunt. She was my eldest aunt, and I called her and I said, "I have something to tell you," and she goes, "What is it?" I say,
Richard Zaldivar: [01:12:00] "First of all, I'm an alcoholic." She goes, "Well, I never knew you to drink everyday." I said, "Well, that's not necessarily an alcoholic. That's one form of an alcoholic." I told her what I was doing. Then I says, "Rena, I have to tell you I'm also gay." There was a pause. This is a woman who financially supported priests through the seminary in Spain. She said,
Richard Zaldivar: [01:12:30] "Well, I didn't know that." I told her, that's why I'm telling you. She says, "God doesn't care what you are. He only cares who you are." That lifted a huge load off my shoulder. She was giving me that approval, and after that, I called my mom. My mom was fine.
Richard Zaldivar: [01:13:00] She asked, Are you sure? Cause you always dated all these women? I said, "Yeah, I'm sure." My dad was a little bit more difficult. No response. Later on, when he'd get upset with me, he'd call me faggot. I was never close to him that emotionally where I would say,
Richard Zaldivar: [01:13:30] he would say, "I love you." It was different for me, but for the most part my family accepted me.
Mason Funk: I'm curious. I'm a middle child, also, although there's four of us, so I'm one of two middle children. What's your relationship with your brothers now? Are they very different from you? Do you feel close to them?
Richard Zaldivar: [01:14:00] My relationships with my brothers are not close. my older brother was a little bit more conservative. He was a police officer but distant. He always had been distant. My younger brother, we're not close. He's gay. He's also a successful theatrical actor, but there was always a sibling rivalry. I was the sick child. I got more attention,
Richard Zaldivar: [01:14:30] and I'm much more different than the two of them. I'm a little bit more aggressive, I'm the activist of the family. It's different.
Mason Funk: Yeah. Let me think. What does it mean to you to have your name on many,
Mason Funk: [01:15:00] many plaques in your office and many monuments? It's a lot. Everywhere you look. First thing I see is Richard Zaldivar.
Richard Zaldivar: What does it mean? Honestly?
Mason Funk: Maybe just fill out what does it mean to so that people know what I asked.
Richard Zaldivar: What does it mean to have plaques in my office with name, and many plaques.
Richard Zaldivar: [01:15:30] Honestly, I have mixed response. Part of it is that my life goes so fast that I sometimes don't take the time to really appreciate who they came from. Sad to say, but it means that an institution or people are acknowledging me and thanking me.
Richard Zaldivar: [01:16:00] It's difficult for me to appreciate the things, but I'm very grateful for all those things that people have given me over the years. Something special.
Mason Funk: [01:16:30] Do you have days when in spite of all these accolades and all these tangible reminders of the difference you've made, do you have days when you wonder if you failed, or if you've done enough? Do you have days where you feel down on yourself?
Richard Zaldivar: There are many days, often days where I feel like I haven't done enough. They're less days today than there used to be.
Richard Zaldivar: [01:17:00] I think with experience, with age, you realize that you have made a contribution to society, and that you still have more to give, but it's still a little bit more organized. Its sometimes overwhelming to know that
Richard Zaldivar: [01:17:30] I'm the only one in the state of California to have received a Hispanic legislative caucus award and the LGBT pride award from legislatures. It means a lot to me because I didn't have to be either/or. I was both. It's different. It does me a lot.
Mason Funk: [01:18:00] I think one of the hopes I have for OUTWORDS is that it will provide inspiration for people about how change works, and you have made activism your life's work. What lessons or insights do you have to share with people who are embarking on a path of activism, whether it's LGBTQ activism or any other type of activism?
Richard Zaldivar: [01:18:30] I like to be able to suggest to people when they look at their own lives that they really have understanding of who they are. Understand if they have a dream, what is that dream? Figure out how are they going to get there
Richard Zaldivar: [01:19:00] and then move forward. I think it's extremely important that we, especially today, that we realize why we were born into this world. There's specific reasons. We're not just a mistake or an accident, but for us to really look at why we're here,
Richard Zaldivar: [01:19:30] and how are we going to get to the place that we always wanted to go, because there are chances that you may never even get there unless you focus on that dream. I think the second thing is to know that ... Is to figure out a way how we're going to take people with us
Richard Zaldivar: [01:20:00] to change systems or make a difference. We can't do it alone. I also say that people need to trust their intuition. Their intuition is a communication center that feeds our spirit to say, "it's okay to do this. This is what you should be doing,"
Richard Zaldivar: [01:20:30] and we need to follow our intuition. Finally, I think it's important for us to know that we're not alone, that there's always somebody else that's providing the opportunity.
Mason Funk: If you can, just repeat that sentence.
Richard Zaldivar: I think it's also important for us to know that in pursuing our dreams that we're not alone. That there was somebody-
Mason Funk: [01:21:00] I'm going to have you go one more time because that motorcycle just kept going. One more time.
Richard Zaldivar: I think it's also important to know that we're not alone in pursuing our dreams. That there's somebody greater than us that's providing us the opportunity. Our challenge is that we have to meet that opportunity. We have to face that challenge right one.
Goro Toshima: Hour and 10 minutes.
Mason Funk: Okay perfect. Perfect. We do hear these days it's a theme, people say,
Mason Funk: [01:21:30] "Pursue your dreams," but for a lot of people those dreams might not be about activism. It might not be about anything that even might appear to improve the world. Would you say you encourage people to look for opportunities to make a difference in the world at large, or is it more important to figure out what your dream is and then just do that?
Richard Zaldivar: [01:22:00] I think it's really important that people figure out what their dream is. They really need to assess why they're here. It's serious stuff, and not everybody can be an activist just like not everybody could sing the national anthem at Yankee or Dodger stadium, but the most important thing is to learn how we can be a better human being. How can we contribute to this earth in our own way?
Richard Zaldivar: [01:22:30] Sometimes that means a full fledged activist, but it also could mean being a good partner, a good neighbor, being a kind person. We need more of that today, and I think the more we do that the more we develop our own community, our world.
Mason Funk: Three last questions. These are the standard three for everybody. One,
Mason Funk: [01:23:00] what advice do you give to young people today, maybe in their teens, early twenties as they're just going out in the world? This is not necessarily about LGBTQ.
Richard Zaldivar: Can we stop this real quick? You have people coming downstairs.
Mason Funk: [01:23:30] Okay. Advice to young LGBTQ starting their journeys.
Richard Zaldivar: Advice to young LGBTQ folks that are starting their journeys in life. I think the most important thing I can say to young people is stop ...
Richard Zaldivar: [01:24:00] The most important thing I could say for young people who are LGBTQ is to know that you're okay. Enjoy the opportunity to learn to know yourself a little bit better. Create a safe space. Explore your hidden talents and your dreams.
Richard Zaldivar: [01:24:30] Take the opportunity to act. Act in helping others, which also means helping your parents understand who you are. Have patience knowing that if it took you fifteen or twenty years to figure out who you were,
Richard Zaldivar: [01:25:00] don't expect them to figure it out in two days. Learn what your gifts are. Believe in dreams and learn a little bit more history of how we came to be as a community so that you know what you need to do for the future of our community members. That's what my suggestions would be.
Mason Funk: [01:25:30] Great. What is your hope for the future?
Richard Zaldivar: Whose future? My hope for the future is that ... I think we're doing a great job as a country. We have changed the way we are looked upon in this country, but I think more has to be done in providing equality for all of our people,
Richard Zaldivar: [01:26:00] whether it be LGBTQ or immigrants or worker issues or people who may not look like us. How do we not only accept people, but how do we accept their culture and their languages a little bit better so we could become better neighbors, more of a united family? How do we start addressing the injustices in the different parts of the world, where a lot of the people who are LGBT are not able to live the life
Richard Zaldivar: [01:26:30] that they were born to live, and they have to live it in shame and silence and secrecy? People are being killed in different parts of the world. I think the more we strengthen ourselves here at home as a country, the more we can change things in different parts of the world.
Mason Funk: Great. Last question.
Mason Funk: [01:27:00] What is the importance of a project like OUTWORDS that exists to create a rounded portrait of our community and how moved from where we were fifty, sixty years ago to where we are today?
Richard Zaldivar: I think projects like the OUTWORDS project are so important so that we can share history, we can learn from our experiences. We can create a greater community by knowing that
Richard Zaldivar: [01:27:30] a lot of the stuff that's in front of us has already been created and many has not. It provides us an opportunity of linking people from different parts of this country to say that we've done this, we need to change this over here in this part of our community. It creates a bigger and better united family when we all know that the stuff that we've gone through in life has been shared by others
Richard Zaldivar: [01:28:00] or can be shared by others, both good and bad. These projects are extremely important because they document history, and they provide an opportunity for the younger generation to know where they're going, and always can fall back on what's been written for them, what's taken place in the community for them.
Mason Funk: Great. I think we got it.
Richard Zaldivar: [01:28:30] Good.

Interviewed by: Mason Funk
Camera: Goro Toshima
Date: July 13, 2016
Location: Office of The Wall / Las Memorias Project, Los Angeles, CA