Cielo Latino shines
Story by Francis Rodríguez
Photos by Chasi Annexy
It was a heavenly time.
Advocates joined together with fashion, business, community and health industry leaders this past Wed., May 14th at the 2014 Cielo Latino gala, the largest fundraiser for Latino/Hispanic AIDS initiatives in the U.S., at Cipriani Wall Street in New York.
This year’s theme was “Designing a World Without AIDS,” (Diseñando un Mundo sin SIDA), a campaign that the Commission launched last year and will continue as it gears up to celebrate its 25th anniversary in 2015.
“I’m very happy and honored to be here, supporting this cause,” said musical artist Henry Santos (formerly of bachata supergroup Aventura). “I’m glad to be part of this and somehow contribute with the wonderful work that the Latino Commission on AIDS is doing. It’s important to support the community and help raise awareness.”
Santos was inducted as the newest Padrino, or “Godfather” of the Commission by its current Madrina (“Godmother”), Miss Universe 2013 Gabriela Isler.
Both will serve as ambassadors in support of the Commissions HIV, AIDS prevention and education initiatives.
The evening featured a silent auction that included an exclusive design for the evening by Latina designer Cenia Paredes, which was sponsored by Macy’s, and was capped with entertainment by the dance troupe Baila Society and the legendary Jose Alberto “El Canario.”
Other sponsors included Gilead, Merck, ViiV Healthcare, Bloomberg, NBC, ABC, HBO, and many others.
Santos donated a pair of autographed shoes – a pair with a special significance to the silent auction. He had used the same during his time on the dancing competition, Mira quien baila (Look who’s dancing). The shoes, an autographed CD and poster, as well as a dinner date with the artist were part of the “Henry Santos Package”.
“It is a great night,” he said.
Guillermo Chacón, President of the Latino Commission on AIDS and Founder of the Hispanic Health Network, said that as the organization nears its quarter-century mark, it has much to celebrate – and new challenges.
“We are really excited about this gala, very grateful for the support in our mission,” said Chacón. “We feel very proud about the work that has been done, but we still have a long journey ahead. We must continue working hard and raising awareness in our community and responding to AIDS and other health threats to patients in need.”
Among those honored were designer and Project Runway star Mondo Guerra, HIV and AIDS advocate Maria Mejia and pharmaceutical innovator Janssen Therapeutics.
Actor Tony Plana and NBC4 New York anchor Sibila Vargas hosted the evening as additional awards were bestowed to the honorees by celebrity presenters that included actors Rosie Perez, Ally Sheedy and Ismael Cruz Cordova, and designers Sully Bonnelly, Victor de Souza and Layana Aguilar.
The Cielo candle, the first of a new line of scented candles by the newly established company, Concentration de Parfums, was introduced at the event and lit symbolically to pay tribute to the individual and organizational contributions of the honorees.
All proceeds from the sales of the candle will go to support the Latino Commission.
“We are holding a candle for our cause,” said Richard González, co-founder and CEO of Concentration de Parfums and chair of the Cielo Latino benefit committee. “We produced a limited number for this initial introduction but our goal is to have the Cielo candle in our line permanently. We hope the public will join us in our effort to give back in commemoration of the Commission’s hard work in the fight against AIDS over the last 25 years.”
The funds raised from Cielo Latino allow the Latino Commission to continue to provide critical and vital services to thousands through its innovative programs and initiatives, and millions more through its national social marketing education, awareness, outreach, and bilingual treatment education.
The Cielo candle is available online at www.concentrationdeparfums.com.
The Latino Commision on AIDS is a nonprofit membership organization founded in 1990 dedicated to meet the health challenges and impact of HIV/AIDS.
To learn more about the Latino Commission on AIDS, visit www.latinoaids.org.