Global activists from the Positive Women’s Network-USA, Sero Project, MPact, US People living with HIV Caucus, HIV Racial Justice Now!, Desiree Alliance, International Community of Women Living with Women-North America, Global Network of People living with HIV/North America, Latino Commission on AIDS, the Translatin@ Coalition, the National Working Positive Coalition, and the US Human Rights Network remember the late Marco-Castro Bojorquez
“One of Marco’s favorite flowers is the sunflower. He taught us that in the absence of light, sunflowers turn towards each other to find the light, to survive, and literally flourish. I can’t imagine this world without your light Marco, but we will face the world now to find light, to survive, and to flourish as you would have wanted. Desde la parte más profunda de mi alma, te encontraré en las alas de colibri.” – Jose Romero, Latino Commission on AIDS
We are devastated by the loss of our beloved comrade and brother, Marco Castro-Bojorquez, who transitioned on June 2, 2021. Marco was a respected, passionate and admired activist, who brought an intersectional analysis, creative spirit and fierce voice to his every space he entered.
“Although his physical presence is no longer with me and with us, his spirit lives in me and with us. The world is very lucky that Marco shared his light and enlightened many of us with his beautiful soul.”- Bamby Salcedo, TransLatin@ Coalition
While many of us met Marco through his HIV advocacy, he was also a renowned filmmaker and a prominent advocate for the human rights of marginalized communities, including queer and trans people, sex workers, immigrants, especially undocumented immigrants, and people who use drugs. He helped found and/or lead Somos Familia, Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement, Venas Abiertas, the U.S. People Living with HIV Caucus, and HIV Racial Justice Now. Throughout his life, Marco taught us so much about how our work is intertwined, about what meaningful inclusion means, and about how much more effective we are when we build inclusive, accountable coalitions.
“I don’t know if he knew how many lives he touched… Like many of us, he was marked by a society that did not value him: as a gay man, an immigrant, a Mexican, a person living with HIV, an artist. He still loved and envisioned a better world for us all.” – Andrew Spieldenner, US People living with HIV Caucus; MPact Global Action for Gay Men’s Health & Rights
Marco was a radical imaginarian who believed unequivocally that the world, and each of us, could do better. His work crafted altars to the past and wrote love letters to a future defined by dignity, wholeness, redemption. To get there, he openly shared his own struggles; in the process he affirmed our pain.
“Marco was so greatly the heart and soul in the groups and communities he stood up in. He always remembered marginalized and disregarded communities, a voice for language justice, for justice for people who are transgender, who are undocumented, who are sex workers, who use drugs, who are shut out and denied dignity.
One of the major works of art he created was his ongoing demonstration of this way of being human, of being in this world. His was a troubled and complicated life, with a day-to-day struggle alongside immense appreciation for beauty in the world, in individuals, and in the animals he loved. I hope and believe his unique, powerful, fierce spirit will infuse and guide the work moving forward for so many of us.” – Mark Misrok, National Working Positive Coalition, U.S. Peole Living with HIV Caucus
Marco was love. He grounded us with his authenticity and dazzled us with his tremendous heart. Marco’s generosity was stunning: he would greet people with warmth and develop an instant connection.
“ A founding member and co-chair of the HIV Racial Justice Now Coalition, Marco was the epitome of what a human rights activist should be and inspired countless others to do the same. Marco had the amazing ability to touch everyone on a deeply personal level while challenging us all to be more thoughtful, bold and visionary.” – Venita Ray, HIV Racial Justice Now! And Positive Women’s Network-USA
“Marco had an uncanny ability to bring those at the margins to the center — immigrants, the undocumented, sex workers, people of trans experience … He shouldered and absorbed their weight, their demands, their narratives, their tragedies, their hopes. Only to exude love and light in his fight to change systems and society for these communities.” – Suraj Madoori, HIV Racial Justice Now!, Treatment Action Group
There can be no denying the pain and significance of losing Marco. Marco was a vital and inspiring force in our networks and we miss him. Yet his work, spirit, and liberatory vision will continue to animate our lives and our movement.
We asked representatives from several of the networks he was involved with to share their memories and experiences with Marco. Their full quotes follow below.
Marco Castro-Bojorquez, Presente! You are in our hearts forever.
We will strive to do justice to your legacy.
“Marco Castro-Bojorquez will always be my sibling. Although his physical presence is no longer with me and with us, his spirit lives in me and with us. The world is very lucky that Marco shared his light and enlightened many of us with his beautiful soul.” – Bamby Salcedo, TransLatin@ Coalition
“Marco was our family of choice, of joy, of anger, of protest, of loss and of love. Serving on the HIV Caucus with Marco gave us a chance to work together on many projects and I will be forever grateful for these memories. We drove each other crazy working together, we had such different styles. But, in the end it is some of the most profoundly beautiful, community-centering, loving work I have been honored to do in any advocacy space. Marco knew that the Caucus was important, demanding inclusion for all people living with HIV in policies that impacted our lives. Marco, please know that we heard your voice to include those who are excluded. We will carry on your work, hoping to bring some small amount of the love and beauty you shared with us.” – Barb Cardell, Positive Women’s Network-USA; US People Living with HIV Caucus
“I met Marco at HINAC 1 [the first HIV Is Not a Crime convening, in 2014] and we bonded for life. Our work lives overlapped into a deep friendship that I’ll carry with me in all I do. He was a hot mess and he thought I was a hot mess — perfect relationship lol! He supported sex worker rights with passion and I supported his work as he had so many fingers in all the pies. I am struggling with his loss and I know it’s felt deep around the globe. Te amo siempre mi novio, mi corazón, mi vida, mi amigo.” – Cris Sardina (Hot Mess!), Desiree Alliance
“Marco was a true light in our movement. He held us with love and called us to be better. He brought art and spirit and an unyielding vision for justice. Marco honored the past and spoke the future. Somehow his heart was large enough to hold the entire world. He saw and felt every single person in a space and that’s how he touched so many. Marco understood deeply that transformative justice is about speaking truth, creating beauty and cultivating loving respectful relationships with humans and animals. He was also completely himself in all his authentic #hotmess glory. In every room Marco entered he brought others with him. Marco was the kind of person you know has your back when you’re not there. He was tireless in fighting for immigrants, for language justice, for racial justice, for sex workers, for people of trans experience. In many ways I’m not sure our movement did right by him and the many communities he fought for. I hope in his honor we can do better. Marco Castro Bojorquez, my brother, Presente! I love you. I will carry you with me always.” – Naina Khanna, Positive Women’s Network-USA
“Marco was constantly checking in with, maintaining ties to, supporting, encouraging, consoling. Even as he struggled with his own challenges, concern for others was never far from his central focus. Marco brought so much love to our movement; his loss is incalculable.” – Sean Strub, Sero Project
“Marco had an uncanny ability to bring those at the margins to the center — immigrants, the undocumented, sex workers, people of trans experience … He shouldered and absorbed their weight, their demands, their narratives, their tragedies, their hopes. Only to exude love and light in his fight to change systems and society for these communities. His loss leaves a gigantic hole in the movement. But I believe we can fill that hole with his lessons, memories and spirit. A blueprint that Marco leaves behind to truly achieve the vision of a just and peaceful world that he wanted for absolutely everyone.” – Suraj Madoori, HIV Racial Justice Now!; Treatment Action Group
“HIV Racial Justice Now joins the HIV community in mourning the passing of Marco Castro-Borojuez. A founding member and co-chair of the HIV Racial Justice Now Coalition, Marco was the epitome of what a human rights activist should be and inspired countless others to do the same. Marco had the amazing ability to touch everyone on a deeply personal level while challenging us all to be more thoughtful, bold and visionary. We will all continue to be inspired by Marco’s gentle warrior spirit and commitment to the humanity of others.” – Venita Ray, HIV Racial Justice Now!; Positive Women’s Network-USA
“The US Human Rights Network (USHRN) is beyond saddened by the loss of this extraordinary human being, who modeled the transformative ideals we strive for. Marco was beloved for his selflessness, honesty, and courage. His impact was indelible. We honor his life and memory as a USHRN board member, supporter, former FIHRE Fellow, community organizer, activist and award-winning filmmaker. His untimely passing rededicates us to the peoples’ struggle. Marco, thank you for advancing human rights globally and locally, across the intersection of HIV, LGBTQ+, immigrant rights, and solidarity with other cultures, races, and abilities. Thank you for sharing your storytelling gifts with the world. Rest in power, and in peace.” – Vickie Casanova-Willis, Co-Executive Director, US Human Rights Network
Header photo of Marco Castro-Bojorquez at a UNAIDS conference. Courtesy of UNAIDS.