Elmhurst corner co-named for Latino activist added to interactive map of historic LGBT sites
By: Emily Davenport
An Elmhurst corner co-named for a Colombian-born Queens resident who helped organize annual Queens Pride Parade has been added to a digital map of historic LGBT spots in New York City.
The NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project announced that it has added Guillermo Vasquez Corner, located at the corner of 77th Street and Broadway, has been added to their interactive map. The map features diverse places from the 17th century to the year 2000 that are important to local LGBT history.
Born near Cali, Columbia, Guillermo Vasquez emigrated to Queens in 1972 to study international law. A longtime resident of Jackson Heights, Vasquez was a key advocate for the borough’s Latino community and pushed for LGBT visibility in Queens. He also raised awareness about the AIDS epidemic, particularly in the Latino community.
A member of Queens Gays and Lesbians United, Vasquez would go on to serve on the board of the Empire State Pride Agenda, a statewide organization that advocated for LGBT rights. In 1993, he helped organize the first Queens Pride Parade as a member of the Queens Lesbian and Gay Pride Committee and served as a translator for Spanish-speaking participants. Vasquez would later pass away due to AIDS-related complications in 1996.
The corner of 77th Street and Broadway was co-named “Guillermo Vasquez Corner” back in 2013. The sign was unveiled next to the Love Boat, a former gay Latino bar where Vasquez educated the community about HIV/AIDS.
“He was a fierce soldier in the battle against HIV/AIDS and a bridge between Latino activists and other movements for social justice.” said NYC Councilman Daniel Dromm at the unveiling.
“Guillermo Vasquez Corner” joins eight other historic sites for the LGBT community on the interactive map. The publication of the “Guillermo Vasquez Corner” entry on The NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project’s website comes just days before the 18th anniversary of the silent candlelight vigil for Julio Rivera that took place in Jackson Heights on Aug. 18, 1990.
Rivera, a 29-year-old Puerto Rican man from the Bronx, was brutally attacked by three skinheads from a local street gang in the P.S. 69 schoolyard because he was gay. Rivera later died of his injuries at Elmhurst Hospital.
The vigil is considered the first successful gay public demonstration in Queens and marked the expansion of LGBT activism beyond Manhattan and connecting activists in both boroughs. In 2013, the southwest corner of 78th Street and 37th Avenue was co-named “Julio Rivera Corner” to honor his memory, and was later added to the interactive map.
“If it wasn’t for Julio, the Queens LGBT movement would not have gotten as far as it has gotten. Julio did not die in vain. He changed people’s lives,” Councilman Daniel Dromm said of Julio Rivera in 2015.