Man sitting on a stool in the middle of an alley.

World AIDS Day: El poder de la poesia/The Power of Poetry


Among the many qualities of poetry is its ability to inspire, memorialize, challenge, and even heal. The Broad’s 2021 World AIDS Day commemoration showcases Benjamin Garcia, féi hernandez, and Emanuel Xavier–three distinct Latinx voices speaking to how issues around HIV/AIDS have impacted their lives and informed their creative processes.

Their poems traverse the intersections of HIV/AIDS and community, cultural heritage, stigma, spirituality, and much more. Marginalized communities find it more difficult to access HIV testing, treatment, and prevention due to social and economic inequalities, which in turn leads to a disproportionate increase in new diagnoses within queer Latinx communities. The poets in this selection participate in a tradition continued since the early days of the AIDS epidemic: confronting crisis with art.


  • Benjamin Garcia: “Ode to the Peacock”
    Video produced by Benjamin Garcia
  • féi hernandez: "Our Lungs, Your Wings”
    Video produced by féi hernandez and Intuition Films, a creative production company that tells socially conscious stories while amplifying underrepresented voices in media both in front of and behind the lens.
  • Emanuel Xavier: “Caminando con ángeles” (Read the poem in English)
    Video produced by Fon Cortizo


Benjamin Garcia

Benjamin Garcia

Benjamin Garcia’s debut collection, Thrown In The Throat (Milkweed Editions, August 2020), was selected by Kazim Ali for the 2019 National Poetry Series. The son of Mexican immigrants, he received his BA from the University of New Mexico and his MFA from Cornell University. He works as a sexual health and harm reduction educator throughout the Finger Lakes region of New York, primarily in jails and drug treatment programs providing HIV, hepatitis C, STI, and opiate overdose prevention-related services. He believes that addiction is a mental health issue, not a criminal one, and he works to help increase healthcare access for rural and marginalized communities. His poems have recently appeared in The Missouri Review, American Poetry Review, Crazyhorse, and New England Review, among others. His essays have appeared in the Kenyon Review. He had the honor of being the 2017 Latinx Scholar at the Frost Place, the 2018 CantoMundo Fellow at the Palm Beach Poetry Festival, and a 2019 Lambda Literary fellow.

féi hernandez

féi hernandez

féi hernandez (b.1993 Chihuahua, Mexico) is a trans, Inglewood-raised, and formerly undocumented immigrant artist, writer, and healer. They have been published in POETRY, Pank Magazine, Oxford Review of Books, Frontier Poetry, and The Breakbeat Poets Vol. 4: LatiNext, among others. They are a Define American Fellow for 2021 and are currently the Board President of Gender Justice Los Angeles and the author of the full-length poetry collection Hood Criatura (Sundress Publications, 2020) which was on NPR’s list of Best Books of 2020. Pulitzer Prize finalist Patricia Smith describes hernandez as “the American dream in the second before it blooms into nightmare,” with poems that “backhand us with the restlessness of the actual world, a world in which a human being can be deemed illegal, or have their body, or the way that body loves, under the blunt jurisdiction of the state.”

Emanuel Xavier

Emanuel Xavier

Poet and activist Emanuel Xavier was born in Brooklyn, NY, and became involved in the ball scene as a homeless gay teen. Over a span of twenty-five years, Xavier has received recognition as a spoken word artist from national colleges and universities. He has been named an LGBTQ Icon by the Equality Forum and has been presented a New York City Council Citation Award. Xavier has received an International Latino Book Award, Lambda Literary Award nominations, and American Library Association Over the Rainbow Books selections for his collections which include Selected Poems of Emanuel Xavier (rebel Satori, 2021), Pier Queen, Americano, If Jesus Were Gay, Nefarious, and Radiance. He is the author of the novel Christ Like and editor of Me No Habla With Acento: Contemporary Latino Poetry, Bullets & Butterflies: queer spoken word poetry, and Mariposas: A Modern Anthology of Queer Latino Poetry. He is also the recipient of a Gay City Impact Award and The Marsha A. Gomez Cultural Heritage Award.

About World AIDS Day

World AIDS Day, designated on December 1 every year since 1988, is an international day dedicated to raising awareness of the AIDS pandemic caused by the spread of HIV infection, and mourning those who have died of the disease. Government and health officials, non-governmental organizations, and individuals around the world observe the day, often with education on AIDS prevention and control.

World AIDS Day is one of the eight official global public health campaigns marked by the World Health Organization (WHO), along with World Health Day, World Blood Donor Day, World Immunization Week, World Tuberculosis Day, World No Tobacco Day, World Malaria Day, and World Hepatitis Day.

Since opening its doors in 2015, The Broad has presented annual programming for World AIDS Day to commemorate the many who have lost their lives to the pandemic, to recognize the many still living with HIV/AIDS, and to acknowledge that, globally speaking, the AIDS crisis is not over. At the height of the AIDS crisis in the 1980s, artists became activists and activism grew into an art form. Prime examples of this include Broad collection artists Keith Haring and David Wojnarowicz (both of whom died of AIDS-related complications), Ross Bleckner, who started his practice dealing with the AIDS epidemic in 1980s, and Mark BradfordGlenn Ligonand Jenny Holzer, who continue to use their artistic voices to highlight the need for public awareness around HIV/AIDS.

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