ELIA CHINO — Fundación Latinoamericana De Acción Social, Inc.
A Michoacán-born immigrant, Elia Chinó has called Houston home for over 34 years. During that time, she has forged a reputation as a determined health and wellness advocate who works tirelessly to educate people about preventable diseases, behavioral health and mental illness. After losing many close friends to HIV/AIDS, Elia Chinó decided to take action. The result of her desire to help end the devastation wrought by this disease in the Latino community was the founding of the Fundación Latinoamericana de Acción Social, Inc. (FLAS). Ms. Chinó is a former member of the City of Houston’s Community Planning Group (CPG) and the former chair of the City’s Latino HIV Task Force. Ms. Chino currently is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of FLAS, Inc. – an organization committed to enhancing behavioral health and wellness services for the Latino Community.
IN HER OWN WORDS:
Tell us a little about yourself:
I’m from a small village called Rancho La Agua Blanca, Municipio La Huacana, Michoacan, México. I come from a big family of 11, we are 9 children plus mom and dad. I am the seventh of my family. The village where I was born is very small and it has a very small poor population. We did not have any future or opportunities there. We didn’t have a school, electricity, running water, or technology such as radio, television, computer, or telephone. Our way of living and working was on the fields. My mother and father worked on the fields planting corn and pumpkins, without making any money at all. I went to elementary and junior high school in a small town and left my family to move to a bigger town called Uruapan where I was able to study high school and some college. Finding jobs and opportunity were hard in Mexico – even when I lived in Mexico City, so I decided to move to the US where one of my brothers lived. My first months in US were very difficult, because of all the barriers such as language, acculturation, employment, transportation, being far away from family and friends. However, I was able to overcome all these issues. And once I did, I became an unstoppable advocate for my community!
What does pride mean to you?
PRIDE means a lot to me, because we have the opportunity to be visible to let society know that we are proud of who we are as human beings, and to remember and honor those warriors that started the movement for the LGBTQ+ community.
Is there anything you would like to promote about FLAS or about yourself?
FLAS is a unique organization that has the flexibility, commitment, and passion in order to assist our community in their needs.
What inspired you to start FLAS?
FLAS was born in 1994 because of the stigma, discrimination, fear, ignorance and taboo that exists in our Latino culture about AIDS. In 1989, my best friend from Mexico City died of AIDS. I received the bad news two weeks after he passed away. In 1993 my best friend who was like my second father, from the Church of Christ in Houston, passed away and nobody told me about it. I found out after two weeks after I called his wife and she told me that he died from that disease that kills people called “AIDS.” The death of my close friends hurt me so much that I cried for days. After the grief subsided some, I said to myself, “I need to do something about it.” In those days in Houston so many people were dying from complication of AIDS in friend’s houses because they were afraid to talk about AIDS to their family, partners and their community. In 1994, I took action and established a non-profit organization named “Fundacion Latino Americana Contra El SIDA, Inc.” (Latin American Foundation Against AIDS). This organization would later become FLAS in 2013.
How would you like white folks to show up for Black and brown folks during these times?
I think we all need to recognize that we all are human beings – our humanity. We are brothers and sisters and we all must treated with dignity and respect. We need to understand that we share a fight for injustice and that we should show up visibly for each other. The color of our skin should not determine how we are treated or how we treat others. We is most important is our hearts.
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