Richard Zaldivar is the founder and executive director of The Wall Las Memorias Project, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting wellness and preventing illness among Latino populations affected by HIV/AIDS by using the inspiration of the AIDS Monument as a catalyst for social change. Combining HIV/AIDS education and prevention, sensitivity to the spiritual needs and religious beliefs of its clients and supporters, along with a commitment to social justice, The Wall Las Memorias, under Zaldivar’s leadership, has been in the forefront of the fight against HIV/AIDS in Los Angeles and beyond.
As executive director, he oversees programs that reach out to Latino populations in the Los Angeles area, including men who are gay, bisexual and MSM, communities of faith and the general public. The Wall Las Memorias Project is noted for several highly visible endeavors, including the construction of the nation’s first publicly funded AIDS monument in the U.S., hosting Strike Out AIDS, the first-ever AIDS awareness day at Dodger Stadium, and leadership in the fight against crystal methamphetamine use in Los Angeles County. It was his vision and singular voice that organized and led a community to fight city hall and prejudice to construct the nation’s first publicly-privately funded AIDS monument.
In 1993, recognizing the lack of effort being made to educate Latinos about HIV/AIDS, Zaldivar organized the first annual Noche de las Memorias or Evening of Memories on World AIDS Day. Challenging what seemed insurmountable, Zalidvar created a space to begin addressing the cultural barriers that made education and outreach efforts possible. That night, he brought together friends, family, community residents, civic leaders and clergy to share with them his vision for an AIDS monument to memorialize those lost to AIDS by offering a place of remembrance and healing.
More than ten years later in 2004, the Wall Las Memorias AIDS Monument became a reality. Located in Lincoln Park the 9,000 square foot monument is composed of a stainless steel archway, eight panels six of which contain murals by Southern California artists and two granite panels that will eventually display the names of 8,000 people lost to AIDS
Under his leadership, The Wall Las Memorias Project has developed innovative programs to reach out to key Latino populations and institutions. He developed an AIDS prevention program, the Latino Men’s Group to give gay and bisexual men a supportive environment to discuss the issues facing them, explore their identity, build confidence and most importantly develop self-esteem. To date, the Latino Men’s Group has had a profound effect on the lives of more than 1,500 men.
Zaldivar has continued to serve his community on numerous boards including a member of the board of directors for KCET-LINK TV, board member of the Epiphany Conservation Trust, serves as a commissioner of the Los Angeles County Commission on HIV and STD’S, Chairman of the KCET-Link TV Advisory Board, Chair of the board of National Latino AIDS Action Network and serves on the California State HIV/AIDS Research Program.
Richard was selected to serve a three-year term as Consejero (advisor) to the Instituto de los Mexicanos en el Exterior (IME). He was elected as Consejeros por Meritos y Trayectoria. He was elected on April 24, 2009 in Mexico City as Coordinator for the Commission on Health for the Instituto de los Mexicanos en el Exterior.
His leadership on HIV/AIDS has been recognized by local, national and international institutions for more than a decade. He was named one of 100 most influential lesbian or gay persons in 1997 by Out magazine. In 2005, KCET Television and Union Bank honored him with the “Local Hero Award” for his leadership in the community. Later in 2005, he received a sabbatical award from the California Wellness Foundation in recognition of his leadership in HIV/AIDS. Richard also received the California State Latino legislative Caucus 2010 Spirit Award and the California State Legislative LGBT Pride Award in 2013. He was honored with the Connie Norman Spirit Award from L.A. Pride in 2013 for his activist leadership in fighting for HIV prevention and LGBT rights.
He has been highlighted as a National Hero on American Latino Television on ABC Television, featured on KTLA’s Heroes at Home in April 2011, and was honored in the special edition of the L.A. Weekly entitled: People 2011, A Celebration of our City’s Finest.