Culture

Remembering Pedro Zamora, The HIV-Positive Man Who Changed Hearts And Minds While On ‘Real World: San Francisco’

Back in 1992, MTV first aired “The Real World,” which went on to define reality TV forever. The shows premise and tagline — “This is the true story…of seven strangers…picked to live in a house… and have their lives taped…to find out what happens…when people stop being polite…and start getting real… ” — seemed like a fresh concept. At the time, viewers were simply taking in how people from different backgrounds got along. A lot of the time, they didn’t. In the middle of all that TV drama, something unusual was taking place: viewers were meeting individuals that presented extraordinary stories. In the show’s 27-year span, only one person stood out among them all and is remembered for literally changing the world. 

In 1994, MTV’s “Real World” San Francisco featured a 22-year-old Cuban named Pedro Zamora. 

Credit: @dc408dxtr / Twitter

For those not familiar with Zamora, his life story is a remarkable one of survival. He was just 8-years-old when he and some of his family members left Cuba on the Mariel Boatlift and settled in Miami. Sadly, his mother died of cancer a couple of years later when he was 13. Zamora still excelled in school. It was around this time that he realized he was gay. While he did come out to his family, they mostly feared that Zamora would get discriminated against because of his sexuality. 

At 17, Zamora found out he contracted HIV and decided to bring awareness to his disease. 

Credit: @theadvocatemag / Twitter

While attending Miami Dade College, Zamora became a fierce AIDS educator. One of the most impressive traits that he possessed was that he could engage with people of different ages and backgrounds. He was a great speaker. It was his charming characteristics and profound knowledge that made him perfect for TV. He ventured into several famous talk shows of that time to speak about what it was like to be a young gay man living with AIDS. 

With the encouragement of friends, Zamora felt he could reach more people with his message of empathy and education about HIV and AIDS by auditioning to be on MTV’s “Real World.” Naturally, he was one of nine to be cast on the show. 

As a cast member on the show, Zamora helped to educate his housemates about living with AIDS. Those moments on MTV also informed millions of viewers. Zamora loved for people to learn about his Cuban culture. 

Credit: @simplymiatx23 / Twitter

Today with the lack of Latino representation in the arts and entertainment industry, we now see how rare it was to have two Cuban Americans on MTV talking about their culture and family. Another castmember that has continued to be in the limelight was Zamora’s housemate Rachel Campos Duffy. She was a young conservative back then, and she still is today as the wife of former GOP representative Sean Duffy (he too was a former cast member of the “Real World” Seattle). While Rachel and Zamora clashed on various topics, including his homosexuality, their bond broke through her closemindedness. 

While Zamora died shortly after the last episode of the “Real World” aired, his legacy continues to be inspiring 25 years later.

Zamora’s housemate and one of his loudest advocates today, Judd Winick, who wrote the 2000 book “Pedro and Me” said this on social media: 

“I’d ask that on this incredible milestone that we try to remember how he lived, and how he literally changed the world, rather than focusing on our loss of him. By appearing on The Real World in ‘94, he showed everyone what it was really like to be living with AIDS, to be living out, to love, to be loved by friends, supported by family—to have a full life. And it seems crazy that this was a lesson that needed to be taught. But it did.” 

Rachel echoed that sentiment on the 25th anniversary of his death on Twitter: “@RealWorldMTV changed many lives -including mine. #PedroZamora died 25 yrs ago today, but his impact lives on. I miss Pedro & the days when MTV respected young people enough to make shows like the Real World, San Francisco.”

For those of us who watched Zamora on the “Real World,” we learned about showing empathy and compassion for those that suffered AIDS and HIV and continue to live with it today. Zamora also taught viewers to always show kindness, respect, and love for one another.

Credit: nycaidsmemorial / Instagram

Click here for more information on the Pedro Zamora Young Leaders Scholarship and The Pedro Zamora Public Policy Fellowship

READ: A Single Mom On DACA Is One Of The Newest Cast Members On MTV’s New Season Of ‘The Real World

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com

How This Latina-Created Club Is Helping Women Feel Safe And Confident On Hiking Trails

Fierce

How This Latina-Created Club Is Helping Women Feel Safe And Confident On Hiking Trails

Growing up in a Guatemalan-African American home in Woodbridge, Virginia, Evelynn Escobar-Thomas didn’t feel like outdoor activities were always accessible to her. After a few summer trips to Los Angeles, where she hiked regularly with her aunt, she realized that she enjoyed nature.

However, with little representation of women of color on trails in mainstream media or in the real world, she often felt excluded from the outdoor recreations she took so much pleasure in.

Evelynn Escobar-Thomas

Hoping to create a safe, fun space that could encourage more women like her to bask in the natural environments around them, she created Hike Clerb.

Founded in 2017, Hike Clerb is an intersectional women’s hiking club and nonprofit aimed at creating experiences in the outdoors that are accessible, empowering and inclusive. While primarily located in Los Angeles, where Escobar-Thomas relocated partly because of its biodiversity, the collective is international, with members as far as South Africa and the United Kingdom. Although predominantly consisting of women of color, the collective is open to anyone who shares the group’s vision and mission.

“There’s a huge sense of community and empowerment because we are out there as a collective of women of different shapes, sizes and colors,” the 29-year-old social activist tells FIERCE. “Women of all walks of life come together to honor ourselves, our bodies and our own individual healing journeys through this radical community.”

In Los Angeles, Hike Clerb hosts monthly treks in areas that are easy to commute to and are capable of being completed by veteran and newbie hikers alike. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, these regular in-person trudges, which could include crowds of 10 to 100 people, have mostly been put on pause. However, the group did link up once in June for a protest hike in support of Assembly Bill 345, legislation that would have created environmental protections for communities living near oil and gas operations in California that failed to pass.

“We met up for a hike protest in support of this bill and had signs and information on how others can get involved,” Escobar-Thomas says.


With social distancing mandates in place, the group has focused on new ways to create community. For instance, Hike Clerb posts monthly challenges that encourage followers to hike on specific days and photograph themselves in an effort to establish a sense of togetherness even though they are all physically apart. Additionally, Escobar-Thomas has been using social media to educate users on hiking etiquette, safety tips as well as on the racist history of public spaces like U.S. parks, trails and beaches.

“Let’s be real here: these spaces, although outdoors, which you would think by default are open to anyone, were made for white people. And to take it back a step even further, they exist on stolen land,” Escobar-Thomas says. 

On Instagram, Hike Clerb has posted educational materials that inform followers about this history. There’s the Yosemite National Park, which was founded on the displacement of the Ahwahneechee people who were later used as entertainment for white visitors, as well as the Grandstaff Canyon, which up until 2017 was called “Negro Bill Canyon” after the mixed-race Black rancher who once resided near the area, among many other examples. Even more, Hike Clerb also shares how beaches were once segregated, with Black communities often limited to remote shores that were polluted and in hazardous locations.

“The way that these idyllic structures and spaces have formed were already on a foundation of violence and exclusion, so it’s not hard to see the connection from the way that these places were formed to the way that we participate and consume them now,” Escobar-Thomas adds.

Among their group treks, it’s not uncommon for the women behind Hike Clerb to hear racial microaggressions. “Hiking Helens,” what Escobar-Thomas calls the disgruntled white women who take issue with large groups of Black and brown people taking up space outdoors, have confronted members about their so-called “urban group.” Other times, these women have accused the collective of obstructing their communities after wrongfully assuming members parked in their neighborhoods.

“You hear these little microaggressions, and it’s like no, we deserve to take up space out here just as much as anyone else, and this is why we are doing what we are doing,” she says. “The outdoors are not just this playground for white people. We should all feel equally entitled to it.”

Despite these occurrences, Escobar-Thomas says that creating hiking experiences has overall been healing and empowering for the women who participate in them. For some, it has even been a catalyst for them to start their own individual journeys with the outdoors, with many taking solo road trips and hiking at larger parks across the Southwest.

For Escobar-Thomas, that’s exactly what Hike Clerb is about: giving women, especially those of color, the resources, education, safety tips and confidence to claim space in environments they had previously felt fearful of or excluded from and to help facilitate those experiences.

“I just really want Hike Clerb to become this destination and resource for women of color, and anyone else who is aligned in our mission, to make the outdoors more representative of the world that we live in,” she says.

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com

Temporary Quarantine Things We Want To Stick Around Even After The Pandemic Is Over

Fierce

Temporary Quarantine Things We Want To Stick Around Even After The Pandemic Is Over

Joe Raedle / Getty

Oh, quarantine. The not so sweet but absolutely necessary measure we all must take during the pandemic to stay healthy and alive. Sounds pretty drastic and dramatic but fortunately, the time in self-isolation means that we’ve experienced some pretty fantastically dramatic switch-ups. From work from home days to on the go cocktails, for many of us, there’s a lot to like about quarantine measures.

Recently, we asked our FIERCE readers what they’d like to hold onto about quarantine when it’s all over.

Check out the answers below!

“Not paying rent.” – yungkundalini

“Masks when you are sick.” – glam_dam

“Supporting small businesses! I can’t stress enough how many people have suddenly started coming out to keep their local businesses and mom and pop shops running. This should be a thing whether there is a pandemic or not! Keep your community strong, protect your local elotero, and give the big corporations a run for their money!!!” – itslinamarie

“Ppl staying 6ft away from me.” – _mrssuave__

“Flex working. No longer an excuse that employees must be in the office.” – mixtapemcgee

Cocktails to go.

“Curbside pickup being regularly available.” –melchini

“All of it!! I feel at peace with people not getting close, knowing mugrosos are washing their hands and being covered in sanitizer, not crowding restaurants and spaces, supporting small businesses, I just feel like so much greatness has come from this but maybe I’m just a glass half full person.” –pinatapink

Work from home options.

“To go cocktails.” –elizar

“Work from home at least 2-5 days/week.” – m_lc88

“Prioritizing wellbeing over work.” –srios21

“Not paying student loans.” – senoritasenorita_

“I wouldn’t mind wearing a mask forever, especially during flu season. But mostly because it hides my RBF really nicely.”- mellowpaloma

“Washing your hands.” – mbhearts20

Giving people space.

“6 ft apart rule should never leave! Especially those don’t know about personal space.” –artkidshirley

“Masks if you are sick or utilizing public transportation or crowded places. I lived in South Korea and I like how normalized it is there to wear it in public places. I think this will help most of us stay away from other people’s kuddies when we are out and about.
Definitely wearing it in the airplane. More often than not I get some sort of cold after traveling.” – haveacupofjohanny

“No middle seats on airplanes.” –lcamargo.g

“More patio dining and employers not discouraging sick days.” – carolcontra

Virtual doctor appointments.

“Virtual telehealth appointments.” –fiona_theresita

“Pretty much all of the above as well as the grocery workers cleaning the carts and handing them to you as you walk up. I LOVE THAT. I hope that stays forever!” –lindafairall

“Hand sanitizer every where!” –jeann0m0

“Spending time at home with your loved ones.” –queenmetal

“Drive by parties … drop a present pick up a plate. A gift from god for the antisocial socialites.” –bobbibrittani

“Some of the cleaning guidelines that probably should have been in place to begin with.” –julezz__o9

“More outside space at restaurants and bars, to go drinks, and 6ft apart 💯 ! Readily available hand sanitizers is chill too.” –pietrememories

Hand washing.

“Frequent washing of hands… because I have no idea what these cochinos were doing prior to this.”- xippallipina

“Cleaning items you just bought before putting them away.” –lia028_ava

“Staying home when ill. Rest. Ppl not crowding my space. Strange men not speaking to me.” –ayequemuchacha

No interest on student loans.

“No interest on student loans. I’ve been able to reduce my loan by so much without the interest!.” –bdlr_jp

“People giving me my personal spaces. Pls stay 6ft away from now on.” –natrdgez

“Working from home and people not shaking my hand lol I’ve always hated shaking hands.” –victorria_p

“People being grateful for their family, health, and what they have around them in this moment!” – liv3.so.angie

Masks.

“Masks when people are sick.” –tricia.adriii

“Masked food handlers and when your sick.” –fancyfaceaz

“People actually washing their hands.” –marilynscarlet

“The checkout line social distancing system! Not having a creep breathe down your neck in line is amazing.” –susanabenavidezkoppelman

“To go drinks at restaurants.” –lizbit3

Alone time.

“Solitude.” – zoiladarton

“Contactless delivery and curbside pickup.” – fiona_theresita

“Masks!!” –jazzberrykush

“Supporting small business, drive by parties, cocktails to go, personal space.” – oclucylu

“Sanitizers and masks.” –bethanias.gonzalez

“Hazard pay for jobs that ARE hazard pay everyday! PAID sick time off these companies ain’t shit tbh.” –gvbelladonna89

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com