All photos credited to Raul Alonzo Jr./ISLAND WAVES/ Criselda Lugo (center) observes a moment of reflection for the victims of the Aug. 3 shootings in El Paso and Dayton on Wednesday, Aug. 7. Dozens gathered at La Retama Park for the event, meant to remember those lost but also to call for action against hate and white supremacy.
All photos credited to Raul Alonzo Jr./ISLAND WAVES/ Criselda Lugo (center) observes a moment of reflection for the victims of the Aug. 3 shootings in El Paso and Dayton on Wednesday, Aug. 7. Dozens gathered at La Retama Park for the event, meant to remember those lost but also to call for action against hate and white supremacy.

Vigil remembers El Paso shooting victims and calls for action

August 9, 2019

As dusk fell on La Retama Park in downtown Corpus Christi, a bell rang twice, piercing the still silence surrounding dozes as they congregated on Aug. 7 around the center of the park.

They were gathered to remember the 22 lives lost in the Aug. 3 shootings at a Walmart in El Paso and listened as retired pastor Fr. Bruce Wilson read the names of victims, sharing a brief narrative about them before their lives were tragically cut short.

Vigil attendees hold candles and flags as the observe a moment of reflection. The song “Amor Eterno,” which has been played at similar events since the shooting, played as they stood in silence.

“We ring this bell for you,” Wilson said after reading a name. At this, the bell held by Angela Leach, who joined him, was struck.

The gathering, entitled “No White Supremacy in Corpus Christi,” was organized by members of the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES), the Corpus Christi chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), the Corpus Christi Immigration Coalition, and the South Texas Human Rights Center. The event was organized in conjunction with similar events throughout the state and nation meant to remember the victims of the shooting in El Paso and Dayton, Ohio, and also as a call to action against hate and white supremacy.

According to CNN, the person charged in the El Paso shooting, Patrick Crusius, allegedly published a manifesto online prior to the attack that outlined racist, anti-immigrant and anti-Latino views. Some, including former U.S. representative for El Paso and candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination Beto O’Rourke, have linked the alleged shooter’s motivations to rhetoric used by president Donald Trump.

 

Retired pastor Fr. Bruce Wilson reads the names of victims of the El Paso shooting as Angela Leach stands ready to strike a bell in remembrance of them.

For Chloe Torres, TAMU-CC history student and event co-organizer, the shooting was shocking, but also a reminder of the work to be done.

“I had to break it down a little bit,” said Torres, “the initial shock and feeling of desperation. As an organizer, you try your best to rally around these issues, and then when something like this happens, you almost feel like a failure. But then you think that there’s a president — arguably the most powerful leader of a country in a world — that is condoning and propagating this kind of white supremacist talking points and rhetoric. And then you realize it’s bigger than one person.”

For El Paso native Beatriz Alvarado, a community organizer for RAICES and event co-organizer, the vigil was one way to bridge Corpus with other cities and bring together individuals to work for change.

Beatriz Alvarado, community organizer for the local office of RAICES, addresses vigil attendees as TAMU-CC history student and event co-organizer Chloe Torres looks on. Members of several groups helped organize the vigil, which was organized in conjunction with similar events occurring throughout the state and nation.

“Corpus Christi exists in a little bit of a bubble,” Alvarado said. “Sometimes it feels like we are detached from all of the bigger city issues. But it’s in the way that we don’t react the same. Not that it’s not happening.

“So, the fact that we’re having and calling attention to these issues here is really important to bring folks together who are like-minded to start working together. … The whole purpose is to really bring people in and show them that they’re not alone.”

“I’m still processing,” Alvarado added. “Hasn’t hit that everyone I love could have easily been shopping there at the time.”

The event, which featured speakers, prayers, and music, saw both solemn remembrances as well as calls to action for gun control and for holding political leaders accountable. For Wilson, his initial reaction to hearing about the shootings encompassed both reactions.

“At first, I went straight to the anger and outrage with our system,” Wilson said. “With our laws, with our politics, with the leader of the country who is inciting this kind of mass shooting, and the shooters who are acting out the will of the politicians for them. And it took awhile for me to get over that so that my heart could turn to the people, to the people who had died, to their families, to their friends who are mourning. So, at first I went straight to the anger, and then I was able to feel the pain.”

As the event concluded, candles were lit and a recording of the song “Amor Eterno,” composed by Mexican singer Juan Gabriel and covered by Rocío Dúrcal, and which has been performed at memorial events for the shooting, played into the night.

Vigil attendees help each other light candles as the event concludes.

For Jenny Espino, DSA member and event co-organizer, the alleged motivations behind the shooting, the targeting of Latinx communities, and the proximity of El Paso brought an extra weight to the tragedy. One which they felt made it all the more pertinent for the event to be called.

“I think that the obvious first response is sadness,” Espino said, “but I think also fear. Of course, it shouldn’t matter, my proximity to these sorts of tragedies, but it feels much heavier when it’s a place that’s more familiar, when it’s in a place where you know and love people, and that is closer to home. El Paso, in a lot of ways, is really similar to our own city.”

 

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