The Quilt as a tool of Expression, Protest, and Awareness: Rhetoric made into Art

The panel of Eddie Colon is a perfect example of how different panels among the Aids Memorial quilt utilize a rhetorical strategy to deliver the purpose of the quilt. The artwork and creativity in the panel have not only a value but a meaning of great importance. The drawings portray who was Eddie while the serve the quilt’s purpose. Eddie Colon’s panel is evidence of how a panel from someone, an ordinary person, can also have powerful meaning for the HIV/Aids Culture by what metadata and information it brings and what history details it provides.

Eddie Colon’s panel, located in block #2411 is made out of cotton fabric and has a black background which allows the drawing’s vivid colors to stand out. At its sides, there are different images, which have a measurement of around 11×7 inches, of him and his beloved ones. At the center of the panel, there are different drawing which describes Eddie Colon’s personality, heritage and among the drawings, there are also messages for him. Beyond these, these drawings not only represent the life of Eddie Colon, but they also reflect the lives of many. The messages from his family are also an example of what thousands of people began to live in the 1980s.

In Eddie Colon’s panel, the purpose of the quilt is portrayed through many of these different drawings. The first one to catch anyone’s attention is the flags included in the panel, the United States flag and the Puerto Rican flag.

United States flag at the first letter of Eddie’s name.

Puerto Rican Flag at the last letter of Eddie’s last name

Even though these might represent Eddie Colon’s heritage, they also have meaning beyond this. The Flags are included in the panel as symbolism and message explaining that the problem of HIV/Aids was not only occurring in America but other countries as well. Through this drawings, the message is clear HIV/Aids is expanding quickly and affecting other cultures as well.

During my research, I was able to educate myself, and I was able to find out that Puerto Rico is one of the countries with a highest HIV/Aids rate. As stated by Aids united, Puerto Rico:

  • Puerto Rico has an HIV death rate higher than any U.S. state or territory,1 a rate nearly 4 times the national rate;
  • In 2010, the rate of HIV infection diagnosis was 33.8 (4th in the U.S.), compared with the United States’ total rate of HIV infection of 19.7.2
  • The San Juan Metropolitan Area is part of the 12 Cities Project, which supports and accelerates comprehensive HIV/AIDS planning and cross‐agency response in the 12 U.S. jurisdictions that bear the highest AIDS burden in the country.
  • The main HIV transmission category for adult males in the San Juan Metropolitan Area is injection drug use, followed by male‐to‐male sexual contact (42% and 27% of male cases, respectively). This trend differs from that exhibited in the United States in general, where 60% of AIDS diagnoses in adult males resulted from male‐to‐male sexual contact and 21% from injection drug use.

Related image

Even though there are no graphics of HIV/Aids cases before 2000, there are records that evidence this. Furthermore, by the massive amount of cases registered in the past few years, it is evident that this problem has been on the island for a while. The image I added above presents the number of cases of HIV/Aids around the island. I decided to add this graphic because although it is in Spanish, it is one of the most accurate I could find.

Through the panel of Eddie, people from all future generations can also have an idea of the pain and suffer from victims and their beloved ones as well. For example, as a strategy of expression while memorizing Eddie Colon, his lover John Molina decided to include a poem he wrote after he died.  This poem explains how John molina feels alone, lost and keeps mising the person he most love. He describes how he handles his heart crying while he looks at Eddies Pictures and remembers him.

Poem dedicated by Eddie’s lover, John Molina.

All of these powerful emotions present the viewers as a sample of what the family members of victims of HIV/Aids have to live. This is a way to create consciousness on the pain and desperation that these people and his beloved ones live. The panel opens peoples eyes to the crude reality and how hard and harsh is for these people to go through this. For these reasons, the quilt serves as a way of expression, awareness, and protest. Furthermore, it is also a way of educating people of what they have been hidden or what society has marginated. These resemble the importance of the quilt for the History of this Disease.