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Carmen Vázquez, SAGE Awards. Photo by Devon Rowland / via National LGBTQ Task Force.
Carmen Vázquez, SAGE Awards. Photo: Devon Rowland/National LGBTQ Task Force.

Farewell to Carmen Vázquez: LGBTQ activist dies of coronavirus at 72.

The Latino LGBTQ activist and equality advocate passed away after complications from COVID-19.

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The Latino LGBTQ+ community is in mourning following the unfortunate news of the passing of 72-year-old activist Carmen Vázquez.

Born in 1949 in Puerto Rico and raised in Harlem, Upper Manhattan, and after studying at New York University, Carmen moved to San Francisco where she would go on to found the Women's Building. The organization's mission was to advocate for everything from immigrant rights to lesbian health care, and welcomes more than 20,000 women a year.

As an activist, she cared about and worked to create safe spaces for members of the LGBTQ community and LGBTQ youth. In the 1990s, she would help create the New York State LGBT Health and Sanitation Services Network. From 1994 to 2003, she was director of public policy at the New York LGBT Community Center and, from 2003 to 2007, she was deputy executive director of Empire State Pride Agenda, a statewide LGBTQ advocacy group in New York that operated until 2016.

For her career and contribution to the fight for LGBTQ+ rights, in 2020, SAGE recognized the activist with an award.

"One of my proudest moments as an activist was presenting Carmen with the annual SAGE award at Creating Change 2020, in recognition of a lifetime of lifetime of courage, ferocity and struggle" said SAGE CEO Michael Adams in the press release released by the organization following her death. "It is unimaginable that Carmen has passed away, but the spirit of someone as fierce as Carmen lives on forever and continues to inspire us."

In her award acceptance speech, the activist stated that "although today or this moment is about me, change is never about one person. There were countless people who paved the way for my activism and countless people who will follow me and build the bridge to the future. Equality is not enough, justice and liberation is what our hearts and minds must lead us to."

We are deeply saddened about the passing of Carmen Vázquez due to COVID-19. Carmen was a true trailblazer for LGBTQ equality and was a hero to so many, particularly Latinx LGBTQ folks. Our hearts go out to Carmen's friends and loved ones. https://t.co/jt8VJho1yc

The LGBTQ+ community and those who support the work of human rights defenders deeply mourn the loss of Carmen, but her legacy will continue to inspire many other activists to keep fighting for rights, for dignity, and for equality.

Rest in peace Carmen Vázquez.

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