On the heels of the El Paso massacre, Latinos and Latino journalists are giving voice to the Latino community’s sense of vulnerability and invisibility. Below are excerpts and links to a few of the powerful pieces published over the weekend.
This killer expressly traveled to a city filled with Mexicans and immigrants. This is new territory. The El Paso shooting isn’t just a sad moment that will pass, but the culmination of an anti-immigrant four decades in politics that ratcheted up in the 1990s and 2000s and has become only louder, emboldened and unchecked by American leaders, led by the president but certainly not just by him.
…A Latina in a predominantly Hispanic border city ‘very much like El Paso’ told me she has a new job, overseeing a team of mostly Hispanic staff, with her name on the door — something to really be proud of. But instead she’s terrified, she said, because the office is marketed toward Latinos and that means she feels like a target.
A Dreamer in Texas told me he was terrified of taking his son to stores or crowded places, and said he warned his parents not to speak Spanish in public. A first-generation Salvadoran man with a wife who is white said they just had a baby boy four weeks ago. He said he has told her he hopes the baby doesn’t have dark skin.
A white man said his Latina wife from the Rio Grande Valley broke down after reading the shooter’s manifesto. She told him she’s sorry if their future kids are targets because of her.
Alexandro Jose Gradilla, a professor of Chicana and Chicano studies at California State University, Fullerton, said he and his wife, also a professor, ‘know anyone can look up a class schedule and start shooting.’
‘White supremacists don’t see the difference between immigrants to fourth-generation Latinos,’ he said. ‘They see brown.’
Carlos Galindo-Elvira of the Anti-Defamation League in Arizona said that, in the days after the El Paso shooting, the organization received calls from concerned Hispanics seeking information about white supremacy and the website where the manifesto was posted.
Some worried whether a mass shooting could happen in Phoenix, a city more than 40% Hispanic, said Galindo-Elvira.
‘What I tell people is that we cannot live in fear, but we also have to be vigilant and be aware of the rhetoric and our surroundings,’ he said.
That sense of safety changed when a young white man opened fire in a Walmart in El Paso last Saturday, making targets out of brown-skinned people. I read the suspect’s manifesto Sunday morning and, for the first time, I did not feel just like an immigrant. I felt like a target. I looked at my 10-year-old daughter eating the chocolate-chip pancakes I’d made and realized that she could be a target too. Citizenship, it turns out, is an illusory shield. In the eyes of that gunman, I am not American but an invader, an instigator. It is because of people like me that he did what he did.
…Last week, a fund-raising email by the Arizona Republican Party called the arrival of Central Americans at the border to assert their legal right for asylum ‘an invasion,’ echoing language commonly employed by President Trump.
This is the language of white supremacy today: that we must stop immigration because Latinos will distort American culture and replace ‘real Americans.’ But by ‘American culture’ they really mean white culture, a definition that, to them, doesn’t apply to people like me. Or to black people, Muslims, Asian-Americans and many others, including mixed-race Americans like my daughter.
Latinos make up 18 percent of the population of the United States. Our roots here extend far back before the nation’s founding. We have fought in every American war. Our food, our language, and our culture have shaped every aspect of American life, going back centuries. And yet the headlines in our largest papers and the cable-news chyrons omitted or downplayed the historic nature of the carnage in El Paso. Instead, they gave top billing to calls for unity by a president who has for years used angry rhetoric that dehumanizes and maligns Latinos.
Years ago, it seemed the rest of Texas would forget El Paso existed because it sits at its most western tip, a place as much American as it is Mexican and New Mexican and Tejano and so fiercely its own. It is a place of rugged beauty, where from up above, as you fly in, the sun reflects off glistening pools and rivulets, where after the blistering heat breaks, before the city lights glimmer, the brownness of the desert and its mountains is cloaked in gold.
As I arrived back home on Monday, word was still spreading among my friends and family of lost loved ones and close calls. On the airplane, passengers scrolled through news stories of people all over the city, in shock and grief, recounting what they knew. Our shared sorrow was palpable at a memorial where white crosses, handwritten notes, and bouquets of flowers lined a barricade overlooking the Walmart that the shooter stormed. Volunteers passed out water bottles and powdered sugar candy sticks. Incense and candles burned next to stuffed animals and red heart-shaped balloons.
Prayers and snippets of television interviews filled the air.
I do blame our president. He doesn’t know us. He doesn’t know our culture.
I don’t know anyone who was killed or injured personally, but I feel the pain for our city.
El Paso es una ciudad que tiene mucho amor para su gente.
People say that what you do in El Paso is get a dead-end job and have a bunch of kids, but that’s wrong, he said. El Paso Strong is “a mindset that involves focus on what you really love and the life that you want. And solid people behind you,” he said. “This city is the way it is because we made it that way.”