Community members across El Paso today are holding a number of events, including a bell toll ceremony, an El Paso Museum of Art altar creation, and blood drive, in memory of the 23 people who lost their lives due to white nationalist rhetoric at an El Paso Walmart four years ago today. The mass shooting was the deadliest attack on Latinos in modern U.S. history.
Today we honor and remember Andre Anchondo, Jordan Anchondo, Arturo Benavides, Jorge Calvillo García, Guillermo Garcia, Leonardo Campos, Angelina Englisbee, Maria Flores, Raul Flores, Adolfo Cerros Hernández, Alexander Hoffmann, David Johnson, Luis Alfonso Juarez, María Legarreta Rothe, Maribel Loya Hernandez, Ivan Filiberto Manzano, Gloria Irma Márquez, Elsa Mendoza Márquez, Margie Reckard, Sara Regalado Monreal, Javier Amir Rodriguez, Teresa Sanchez, and Juan Velásquez. Here are some of their stories.
The oldest victim was 90. Luis Alfonso Juarez “immigrated from Mexico, had a long career as an ironworker and eventually became an American citizen,” his family told The New York Times in 2020. “He bought a home and, with his wife of 70 years, Martha, raised seven children; the family later grew to include 20 grandchildren, 35 great-grandchildren and eight great-great grandchildren.” Up until the tragic day of his death, Mr. Juarez was still active, painting the eaves of the house where he lovingly raised his family, the report said.
15-year-old Javier Rodriguez was the youngest victim and still had his entire life ahead of him. Loved ones described him as a “passionate” soccer player who would’ve graduated from high school this past summer. Instead, a seat was left empty “with Javier’s cap and gown draped over it,” KTSM reported. “It’s something that was taken away from us and it hurts, it really hurts,” his dad, Francisco Javier Rodriguez, told the outlet.
Jordan Anchondo, 25, and Andre Anchondo, 24, had just celebrated their wedding anniversary and were shopping for their six-year-old daughter’s birthday party. They had dropped her off at cheerleading practice and had their two-month-old son with them when the shooting began. Jordan died shielding Paul, while Andre died shielding them. Paul survived. Now four years old, he’s “begun to understand the loss of his parents and grapples with it on special occasions, such as Father’s Day, and at the sight of family portraits,” Spectrum News reported.
Because the white nationalist shooter targeted a binational community, a number of victims were from outside the United States. Jorge Calvillo García was among the Mexican nationals who were killed. He was with his son, Luis, and granddaughter, Emylee, to raise funds for her soccer games when shots began to ring out. Both father and son were hit. Luis was seriously injured and would spend nearly two months hospitalized. Jorge was killed at the scene.
“Getting out of the hospital was about recovering, but it was about grief, too,” The Times reported in late 2019. In one bittersweet moment, Emylee excitedly told her dad that her grandpa had appeared to her in a dream. “‘You know what I dreamed?’ she asked. In her dream, she was wearing a blue dress that sparkled at the quinceañera that would happen on her 15th birthday. And her grandfather was there, too.”
“Your grandpa is going to visit you a lot in your dreams,” the report says he told her. “He didn’t get a chance to say goodbye.”
The shooting injured nearly two dozen people. One injured man, Mexican national Mario De Alba, spent six months in the hospital. “He returned to Chihuahua City with his family only to relapse and be hospitalized again 10 days later,” El Paso Times said. Others escaped the gunman’s fire, but were still scarred. Ana, a survivor who asked to be identified only by her first name, said during a press call Wednesday that August “used to be a month of celebration” for her family. In fact, Aug. 3rd is her husband’s birthday. In highly emotional testimony, Ana described how she and her son went shopping for cake supplies that day, only to have their world turned upside down.
“I remember seeing someone get shot at the entrance, and that’s where I completely paralyzed from the shock,” she said. Her son, just nine at the time, dragged them both out of the store. She said she would “never forget” the fear in his face.
“Las Americas serves many of victims of the Walmart shooting, deputy director Christina Garcia said,” The Dallas Morning News reported. “Victims of a major crime are eligible for U-visas in the United States. Garcia said her organization has submitted 50 U-visa applications for survivors of the Walmart shooting and family members of the deceased.” But likely due to major government backlogs, just one visa has been approved.
“My husband always tells me that the greatest gift he has on Aug. 3 is that we are still alive,” Ana said. But without a work permit, she struggles to support herself and her family, and pay for unexpected medical bills.
But rather than addressing the kind of government red tape and outdated immigration system that continue to leave Ana and other survivors stuck in their limbo and grief, anti-immigrant lawmakers and their campaigns continue to echo the same white nationalist rhetoric espoused by the mass gunman. In fact, America’s Voice has identified over 500 such examples in the past year alone. El Paso, Buffalo, and Pittsburgh show how racist conspiracy theories have real-life consequences, America’s Voice Campaigns Director Mario Carrillo said during the call.
“El Paso welcomed me and my family as immigrants more than 30 years ago, and it continues to be a welcoming community to migrants today – and a lot of that is because of organizations on the ground, like Las Americas,” Carrillo said. “I have so much love for El Paso, and remain heartbroken for the families. Families that look just like mine, who suffered from the brutality of that day. We’re here so that they might find some justice out of this tragedy.”
For a list of local events honoring and remembering the victims of the El Paso tragedy, click here. “But even if you can’t attend any of the events, the City has created a Virtual Memorial webpage to provide the community an opportunity to share their condolences, love, and support for the families of the victims,” KVIA said. Click here to share your condolences.