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Sylvia Rivera

Latina and Latino boundary breakers have shaped U.S. history. Latino groups have fought for fair labor practices, education access, safe housing, Immigration and criminal justice system reform, and LGBT rights, among other issues. Puerto Rican-Venezuelan activist Sylvia Rivera (1951–2002) stands (left) outside New York City Hall with fellow activist Marsha P. Johnson. They fought for gay and transgender communities in New York City, focusing on issues like homelessness and employment. Rivera loudly criticized racism and economic exclusion within the LGBT community. 

Black and white photo of Sylvia Rivera, fist raised, and Marsha P. Johnson, holding umbrella, in front of wooden police barricade.
Gay rights activists at City Hall rally for gay rights (Detail), 1973. Courtesy of the Manuscripts and Archives Division, The New York Public Library, photo by Diana Davies
Gay rights activists at City Hall rally for gay rights (Detail), 1973. Courtesy of the Manuscripts and Archives Division, The New York Public Library, photo by Diana Davies
Illustration of Adela Vázquez with San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge in the background.
Adela Vázquez, Rafael López, 2021 
Illustration of Cuban transgender HIV/AIDS activist Adela Vázquez who has a light skin tone, short, purple, straight hair, and wears a sleeveless colorful dress with wide straps. She also wears gold teardrop earrings. Behind her, a purple background featuring San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge. 
Adela Vázquez, Rafael López, 2021 

Connecting to the Present

Transgender Activists Today 

Adela Vázquez is a Cuban transgender HIV/AIDS activist. She left Cuba in the 1980 Mariel boatlift. Vázquez eventually settled in San Francisco. Her activism began with supporting trans women who were battling AIDS. Vázquez later joined the staff at Proyecto ContraSIDA Por Vida (Project for Life Against AIDS). Proyecto (1993–2005) was a Latinx HIV-prevention organization in San Francisco’s Mission District.  Latina transgender activists such as Adela Vázquez, Ruby Corado and Sage Dolan-Sandrino continue the legacy of Sylvia Rivera. You can learn more about Ruby Corado on the Immigration Stories page and Sage Dolan-Sandrino in the Somos video.

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