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    The Untold Story About the Founding of AGUILAS

    By Eduardo Morales, Ph.D.–

    In 1991, Latinx LGBTQ community members decided to come together regularly in a meeting room at Saint Francis Lutheran Church at 152 Church Street to discuss how to improve visibility within the larger SF LGBTQ community. At these monthly meetings, attendees conceived of a new organization that they named AGUILAS, which means “eagles” in Spanish. It is also an acronym for Asamblea Gay Unida Impactando Latinos A Superarse, which translates to Assembly of United Gays Impacting Latinos towards Self-Empowerment. The group developed bylaws, encouraged voting registration, and invited individuals who were seeking political office in San Francisco to discuss their candidacies.

    Two years later, 5 Latinx gay psychologists met in response to a request for proposals from the San Francisco Department of Public Health (SFDPH) to develop intervention strategies addressing the HIV/AIDS epidemic among Latinx men who have sex with men. SFDPH had obtained the funds from the now defunct agency CURAS.

    A proposal was written for a randomized trial comparing two strategies and was funded in the spring of 1994 with the National Task Force on AIDS Prevention (NTFAP) being the fiscal agent. Throughout the year, it was discovered that NTFAP was breaking their promise of only charging AGUILAS the indirect cost of 15% of the grant to function as its fiscal agent. Later it was found that NTFAP was expending costs for their own administrative expenses using the direct costs designated for AGUILAS’ program, thus breaking their original agreement. Written evidence about this misuse of funds was distributed at a town hall meeting that was held in the last week of June of 1995. At this meeting, representatives of NTFAP, SFDPH, and AGUILAS discussed the strained collaborative relationship, and it was decided that a new fiscal agent, Instituto Familiar de la Raza, would become AGUILAS’ new fiscal agent.

    Meanwhile, an application for 501 c-3 status to the IRS was filed by AGUILAS and an IRS recognition letter was mailed to AGUILAS’ first offices located at 22 Guerrero in San Francisco with the date of August 5, 1999. Hence, AGUILAS became a federally recognized, free-standing nonprofit organization with 501 c-3 nonprofit status.

    This year, 2024, marks the 30th anniversary of AGUILAS providing services to the Latinx LGBTQ community.

    Eduardo Morales, Ph.D. is a Professor Emeritus, retired Distinguished Professor, and current adjunct professor at Alliant International University. He is also a licensed psychologist and a founder and current Executive Director of AGUILAS, an award-winning program for Latinx LGBTQ+. Of Puerto Rican decent, he has received numerous distinguished awards and citations, including being named a Fellow of 12 divisions of the American Psychological Association.

    Nuestra Voz
    Published on February 22, 2024