A Latinx Response to the White Supremacist Attack in El Paso and How to Help

Photo by  Jeanette Nevarez

By Latinx Spaces Staff

On Saturday, August 3rd, 2019 a white nationalist killed 22 people and wounded dozens more in El Paso, Texas. The white male, inspired by a white supremacist ideology, sought to inflict as much damage as possible on the Latinx community. Just minutes before the first 911 call, the shooter posted a manifesto to 8chan detailing his motives, chief among them to defend against the “Hispanic invasion of Texas”.

In the last week we’ve seen media cover the events that unfolded in El Paso in a variety of ways but there are some things that must be undoubtedly stated. The shooting in El Paso was an act of white supremacist terrorism directly aimed at Latinx people. As noted by witnesses, and later confirmed by the shooter, he targeted Latinx shoppers while letting other leave. This amounted to the deadliest terrorist attack on the Latinx community in recent U.S. history. The events of August 3rd were not only vile and evil but beyond moronic, lacking in the most basic understanding of Texas history. Texas was part of Mexico way before racist white ideologies laid claim to it as a white monolithic state. The border may have changed throughout history but the fact remains, we have always been here.

Half of the Latinx Spaces team is from El Paso, Texas. When we heard the news of the attack we were devastated, not only because it was an attack on the Latinx community, but an attack on our home. Accordingly, we wanted to share thoughts from our team members that hail from El Paso as we not only cope with the events that transpired but reaffirm our mission to create a more pluralistic media landscape.

Aaron Jimenez, Editor-in-Chief

One of my earliest childhood memories, if not the earliest, is of my family and I crossing the Rio Grande River from Juarez, Mexico into El Paso, Texas. The year was 1985 and back then, the wall and fencing you see across the border didn’t figure as prominently as they do today. I didn’t understand much at the time, but from a very early age I understood my family and I were “other” in this new space we were entering—in a lot of ways, it felt like an intrusion. 

As I grew up, dark-skinned and speaking a different language, I grappled with many of the issues facing immigrants. Foremost among them was the question of assimilation: do I assimilate for the sake of “thriving” or do I carve out my own unique path? It was only as I got older that I came to the realization that these things are not mutually exclusive and I attribute this to my upbringing in the El Paso/Juarez region.

People tend to think of borders as concrete defining delineations— as things that demarcate exclusively. Those from outside El Paso think of Juarez as a wholly Mexican place, El Paso a wholly “American” place, and the border as what serves to separate them. Of course, nothing but could be further from the truth and if you’re from the El Paso/Juarez region you not only know this, you’ve lived it. The area is not home to two distinct cultures, or even encompass a bicultural space, but rather, a transcultural space. The area is beautiful, unique, and most importantly, fluid—a place where distinct and multiple historical linages converge and are tangible, a place we call home. 

Today as I reflect on the changing sociopolitical landscape, I recognize that the biggest threat to white hegemony and nationalism is a truly democratic and pluralistic society. El Paso, while not infallible, is a place that is thriving, a space where we see this developing every day. Part of me thinks this is why the shooter targeted and drove the 10 hours to El Paso when there are Latinx communities across Texas, but part of me thinks he couldn’t begin to comprehend the region. Regardless, the question is no longer of assimilation but of transformation—our voices will be heard.

Cynthia Zubia, Communications Director

Born and raised El Pasoan, Chuco town o.g. and proud daughter of immigrants.  

On November 8, 2016, I cried myself to sleep in a cradle position. I was distraught and shocked that "my" America would elect a misogynist racist as a president. 

A man who used the term "bad hombre" for people who look like the men in my life. A man who said that Mexico is sending rapists, criminals and drug dealers– yet, immigrants are less likely to commit a crime. A man who would disregard his sexual assault comments.

I was afraid. Afraid of what would come for the next four years, wishing it was not my reality. I went into work the next day with puffy eyes and a cloud over my head, a somber mood in the air. 

In 2017 I was to get married in Austin during his first year in office and I was worried for Mexican family driving through Texas I-10 in Trump's America from El Paso to Austin. Some people thought I was exaggerating, that I feared from no reason.

Now, 2019, the rhetoric has gotten worse and vile statements more repugnant. (For example, Trump laughed and embraced a comment about shooting immigrants. Please tell me how that is ok!). I have had friends tell me they now understand what I feared in 2016–three years after.

On August 3rd, 2019, my greatest fear culminated into the worst atrocity against my culture. El Paso was terrorized by one of the deadliest shootings in U.S. history. A man drove over 600 miles to murder people who look like me because of an "invasion" of Hispanics. Yet, there is no invasion – unlawful entries are at an all-time low and they have been for a few years pre-dating Trump. This hatred was ignorant and sickening. The spread of fake news, hate, and negative rhetoric led to this. WORDS. HAVE. CONSEQUENCES. I saw that in 2016, I don't understand how people did not see it then and still don't see it now. 

So what now?

There is no undo, just like there wasn't in 2016. We have to come together, we need change.

Luis Linan, Director of Advertising

 While reflecting the last couple of days on what happened, there were certain memories that kept arising in my mind. Growing up, one could probably quote me saying, ad nauseum, something along the lines of “it feels like nothing ever happens in El Paso”, to which there was a certain element of truth, along with a healthy amount of adolescent melodrama. But now the city that once felt so disconnected from the world has become the axis for several cultural flashpoints. While the community certainly did not ask to be under the microscope of the world, I have no doubt the community will continue to exhibit the values of love, resilience, and compassion that made it an exceptional place to grow up. All in all, my thoughts, feelings, and beliefs on this needless act of violence are still best distilled in the words I posted to Facebook hours after the event, “[I] Have nothing but love and want nothing but justice for my hometown”.

 

Richard Gonzalez, Music Editor

The image that I can't get out of my head from last Saturday wasn't the most graphic, but rather, the pictures of people exiting the stores with their hands raised. This look of fear that victims of mass shootings have is something I have seen on TV what feels like a million times at this point. But seeing that happening in a place that I grew up in—a place I spent more time in than anywhere else I can remember—was so jarring. Knowing how important going to stores and shopping for school supplies, or just groceries in general, is and what it means to people is the saddest part. It's very much a public event and not always done for utility in EP and to see that taken away has an underlying sadness. I knew who these victims were before ever seeing their faces because they were part of the fabric of what makes up the identity of El Paso. These are people that never got the opportunity to drive back over the bridge to Juarez to spend time with their families, people that won’t ever have the chance to experience the hundreds of traditions you instinctively know about when you are living in Chuco. And that’s the saddest part about what some loser filled with hate emboldened by a pathetic excuse for a leader has done.

El Paso has always felt tucked away, not necessarily affected by whatever was going on in the world. Now as the city grows, it finds itself at the forefront of a lot of attention with migrant detention centers just outside the city and a presidential candidate mentioning El Paso in national debates. And now with this tragedy, it has more attention than ever. With that, it doesn't surprise me that stories of heroism and giving that have come from this are showcasing what makes El Paso such a special place. I hope we can continue to honor the victims and do everything we can to silence the voices of white supremacists everywhere from 8chan to the White House.

Photo by  Jeanette Nevarez

Anthony Zubia, Art Director

Growing up in El Paso for the first 20 years of my life, I didn’t realize how the city is its own little unique, safe bubble. Almost 90% of the city is made up of Latinx, Chicano, and Mexican people who are proud of their culture and the city itself has been ranked as the safest city in the US for many years.

It wasn’t until I moved to Austin and had to drive through small Texans towns that I actually realized how real and abundant racism and discrimination is. Aside from being racially profiled by law enforcement, there was something else I noticed about my fellow Texans: how quick everyone is to hate on El Paso. Whenever someone asks where I’m from and I say El Paso, most of the time they bring up how “violent” it is, how there is “nothing to do there”, and how it has to be the “worst city in Texas”. Most of these people have never even been to El Paso and it shows because none of those statements are true.

Then, when our current president took office, he started villainizing our people and by saying a wall needs to be built there. All of a sudden, the rest of his voters around the country started paying attention to El Paso. At this point, when people started debating me on why both myself and my city need to change, I would call them out and say “Don’t listen to what the president is saying about us. None of it is true and he shouldn’t be saying this to the rest of the country”. Of course, no one listened to the kid from El Paso and even though racial tensions grew for me from these words, little did I know that they would bring death to my community.

On August 3rd, 2019, a white supremacist drove from the Dallas area to El Paso on a mission to kill and injure brown people. In one of the worst shootings in the US, he killed over 20 people in my hometown and has left us heartbroken. It is sad and terrifying to know that people dislike my city so much that they think it’s ok for a massacre to take place over the color of our skin. That safe bubble of El Paso was infiltrated by a terrorist who bases his ideologies in hate and racism. We knew things would worsen for us during this presidency but we didn’t know things would get this bad. Thankfully though, our community is strong and we will recover from this tragedy. 

This country needs change. This country needs peace. This country needs to learn from El Paso.


Christina Miranda, Literature Editor

El Paso has always been a city to be proud of. It has always been a home that provides safety and comfort to its citizens—even those who have moved away. It wasn’t until I left for college that I truly felt proud of my city and its culture. Living in Austin, meeting someone from home brought that sense of comfort. And now, the mention of El Paso only brings a quick pang to the heart and grief for a home that will no longer be the same again. 

It’s frustrating and utterly exhausting seeing its name dragged through non-stop news coverage and political shouting matches that never seem to have any solution. Instead of seeing our city as a community, we have quickly turned into nothing more than a statistic. It angers me that those who we rely on to make changes for the better in their political offices see us as another tic to a count that could have been prevented years ago. It angers me that the main issue of powerful gun ownership is being swept under the rug again. It angers me that the possibility for politicians owned by racist and distorted views on gun ownership will do nothing about this for the time being. 

Another racist mass murderer isn’t going to change the mind of politicians. It has to be the citizens they represent—especially those who have been affected in some way. 

Upon watching coverage on Trump’s visit to El Paso after the shooting, it is confusing to me that there are still El Pasoans who welcome someone who has helped encourage an event like this to take place—especially Latinx citizens who live in a city of immigrants. All of us have history on the other side of the border, our sister, who mourns as well. That attacker wouldn’t have cared if you were wearing that red hat or not. 

My plea for our readers is this: there’s no more time to sit idly by spectators of our nation’s history anymore.

Change has to be made by people. That’s the only way it has been done, and it’s our turn to do so. Firstly, donate to victims. 

Protest for them.

Call and write your representatives for them.

Help your local activist groups. 

Vote. It’s clear who deserves to be removed from their seats of power now.

Don’t be quiet. 

 

REST IN POWER 

Jordan Anchondo, 24, and Andre Anchondo, 23

 Arturo Benavides, 60

 Leonard Cipeda Campos, 41, and Maribel Hernandez, 56

 Raul Flores, 77, and Maria Flores, 77

 Jorge Calvillo García, 61

 Adolfo Cerros Hernandez, 68, and Sara Esther Regalado, 66

 Alexander Gerhard Hoffman, 66

 David Alvah Johnson, 63

 Luis Alfonzo Juarez, 90

 María Eugenia Legarreta Rothe, 58

 Elsa Libera Marquez, 57

 Ivan Hilierto Manzano, 46

 Gloria Irma Marquez, 61

 Margie Reckard, 63

 Javier “Amir” Rodriguez, 15

 Teresa Sánchez de Freitas, 82

 Angelina Englisbee, 86

 Juan Velázquez, 77

 

HOW TO HELP 

El Paso Community Foundation Shooting Victims’ Fund

El Paso Community Foundation is accepting funds to help the families of those affected. They are working with the City of El Paso to help in any way they can. 

El Paso Victims' Education Fund

 The El Paso Community Foundation has established a scholarship fund for the children of those shot and injured or killed. 

Paso del Norte Community Foundation Victims Relief Fund 

The El Paso Victims Relief Fund was established to accept monetary donations to support victims and their families affected by the tragedy.

They will provide direct financial assistance to families to assist with short, medium and long-term expenses to include but not be limited to funeral, food, shelter, housing and medical expenses, and other important needs.

Donate Blood 

Many came out to donate blood immediately after. There will still be blood needed as victims recover. If you want to donate this week or next in El Paso or across Texas, you can make an appointment at bloodhero.com or call 1-877-258-4825. 

RESOURCES FOR VICTIMS 

Hope Border Institute

If you’re afraid to contact the authorities due to your immigration status contact the Hope Border Institute for help.

info@hopeborder.org

(915) 872-8400 ext.200

Law Services 

Cynthia Lopez offered legal/immigration law services to victims who may need support.

The El Paso Probate Bar Association also is offering free help to the families. To receive the assistance, call 915-779-3619.

Attorney Jennifer Coulter, who is president of the El Paso Probate Bar Association, made the announcement. She said the law offices of Townsend Allala Coulter and Kludt will be among those providing free legal services to the victims' families. 

The Cesar Ornelas Law Firm also announced Monday that it will provide free probate legal services to the families of those killed in the El Paso shooting.

HELP COPING WITH THIS

Free Therapy Services to El Paso Survivors or relatives, from Latinx Therapy 

Myra Garcis, LCSW

Call 915-247-2407

Latinas Rising
email latinasrising@gmail.com

VisionQuest a National LTD 

Contact Claudia Moreno McGuire in San Antonio

Call 210-504-7918

Emergence Health Network On-Call Counseling

Call 210-504-7918

Victims of Crime

915-538-2242 or 915-538-2237