The Latinx community in the United States has lost one of the most important voices in the fight for LGBTQ+ rights.
Lorena Borjas, immigrant activist, and considered the mother of the Latinx transgender community in Queens, died last Monday at age 60 from respiratory complications after contracting COVID-19.
According to her friend and Translatinx Network CEO Cristina Herrera even in her last moments, Borjas was concerned about her community, looking for ways to help and protect the most vulnerable, The Daily Beast reported.
“She was scared not just for herself, she was really scared about how corona was impacting so many communities, especially older people and people with other chronic conditions. She was scared not just for herself but for her community,” Herrera told The Daily Beastafter the announcement Monday of Borjas’ death from coronavirus-related complications at 59.
“She just wanted to feel better and get better,” said Herrera. “We were exchanging information about getting the message out to the trans Latina community. Even though she was sick, to the end Lorena was always looking out for other people.”
Born in Veracruz, Mexico, Borjas immigrated to the United States in 1981 with the dream of being able to obtain the necessary therapy for her gender transit. Having experienced firsthand the violence and hardship that transgender immigrants experience — in their home countries and as foreigners alike—the Mexican activist decided to turn her life over to the protection of her sisters.
From organizing shelters for abused or vulnerable women to walking the streets handing out condoms and food, Borjas survived the worst conditions, the HIV epidemic,and the system’s neglect for over thirty years.
Faced with the inability of community members to access HIV testing and control, for example, Borjas even went so far as to establish a testing clinic in her own home,and set up awareness campaigns on the use of shared syringes.
Eventually, thanks to the support of activists and colleagues, she was able to found the Lorena Borjas Community Fund, dedicated to financially assisting LGBTQ people with criminal proceedings.
Despite her hard work in her community, Borjas suffered the stigma of immigration, running the risk of being deported for lack of documents until in 2017 New York Governor Andrew Cuomo granted her special pardon for crimes she may have committed by being a victim of trafficking, according to Pink News.
“With this pardon granted, I will no longer have to go to sleep at night, worrying that I will be deported back to a country that is no longer home,” she said at the time.
“I will be able to live my life without stress and fear of immigration and I will be able to continue doing the work I do and help more vulnerable transgender women.”
Her light was extinguished one day before the Day of Transgender Visibility, but her work and legacy will last forever.