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World AIDS Day Die-In (1996)

Happy Foundation

Sound | 1996

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  •  The die-in begins as the clock strikes noon 
  •  Fran Mendez—president of the Blue Light Candle Project, which organized the die-in—speaks to the press about the purpose of the demonstration and the need for government funding for AIDS research 
  •  Balloon release 
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This home video captures a die-in demonstration at San Antonio’s Patio of States on December 1, 1996—World AIDS Day. The Blue Light Candle Project, a local AIDS awareness and fund-raising organization, organized the protest. First observed in 1988, World AIDS Day is an official global public heath campaign by the World Health Organization dedicated to raising AIDS awareness as well as mourning those who have died of the disease. In the footage, demonstrators say the name of a friend or loved one who passed away before lying down on the ground. A protest organizer then draws a chalk outline around their body. Following the demonstration, Blue Light Candle President Fran Mendez talks with the assembled press about the purpose of the die-in and the need for AIDS research funding.
The Happy Foundation is a non-profit archive dedicated to the preservation of San Antonio’s LGBTQ history. Founder and curator Gene Elder began collecting materials in 1988, ultimately moving the collection to a back room of the downtown gay nightclub Bonham Exchange. The organization is named after Arthur “Happy” Veltman, a San Antonio entrepreneur who died of AIDS in 1988. In addition to owning multiple gay bars, including Bonham Exchange, Veltman was also involved in the development of the San Antonio River Walk and Blue Star Arts Complex.