“Tu eres, la tristeza de mis ojos, y lloran en silencio por tu amor.” – Amor Eterno, Juan Gabriel
Two cities, one shared culture. One shared heartache.
Those were the words and sentiments that were echoed by Texas and Mexican politicians on Wednesday evening during the El Paso Memorial event at Southwest University Stadium.
Hundreds filled Southwest University Park to mourn, grieve, find solace, honor and most of all remember the 22 victims who were shot and killed by a gunman on August 3 at Walmart near Cielo Vista.
Many donned the now-iconic El Paso Strong Shirt. One man in particular wore a shirt that read, “It’s Okay Gringo, I’m legal.”
Guests included, among others, Texas Governor Greg Abbott; Mexico’s Deputy Foreign Minister for North America Jesus Seade; Governor of Chihuahua, Mexico Javier Corral, Mayor of Juarez, Armando Cabada; and El Paso Mayor Dee Margo.
Mayor Dee Margo recalled the tragedy and the bravery that took place on August 3.
“This evil is unlike anything we’ve ever experienced before,” Margo said. “Though, we can’t let our pain overwhelm and change who we are. Though our disparity may seem insurmountable, our love and compassion from our region is even greater. Hate will never define us.”
Luminarias in the shapes of 22 glowing stars and 9 glowing circles decorated the field honoring the victims of the El Paso and the Dayton, Ohio shooting respectively.
Governor Abbott opened with a message of unity and a promise that hate crimes would not be tolerated in Texas.
“Texas grieves with you for the 22 innocent people who senselessly killed in this cowardly attack,” Abbott said. “We pray for those who continue to recover from their injuries. As we gather tonight we still cannot comprehend the evil that struck El Paso 11 days ago. The magnitude of the hate and racism, the sheer evil behind the act that took so many people – we grapple with why good people would be taken from us so soon. We may never fully understand the evil in this world or the hatred behind it – but here is what we do know. We know this evil will not overcome us”
Abbott closed with a invocation as Governor of Texas to form a domestic terrorism taskforce to combat extremism and violence in Texas.
Following Abbott was the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Mexico – Undersecretary for North America Jesus Seade who echoed Abbott’s message about unity aimed at Hispanics.
“You are our binational future,” Seade said. “Our values have no color, no race, no cultural division. Let us walk together toward a world in which all minorities are equally respected.”
Chihuahua Governor Corral reminded the crowd that El Paso and Juarez were not just a binational community in financial endeavors but our commonalities reach far beyond enterprise and business.
“When we talk about El Paso and Juarez, we talk about a binational community that understands and assumes diversity and its plurality like something natural because are a neighbor – and because of these familiar ties we have become family, brothers,” Corral said in Spanish.
“Because we alone don’t just share common businesses or industries or going to Walmart for groceries – we also share a culture, music, economy and most importantly – language and family. This community, I tell you – it’s necessary that the hurt and the pain we feel for the loss of our loved ones should not be converted into hate. This attack, by this man, should not build mistrust between us because then we are losing twice and we are giving him a triumph that he doesn’t deserve.”
Corral, and Juarez Mayor Armando Cabada asked that everyone fend off any feelings of fear or division.
“The community of Juarez and El Paso is a community that is binational…and a community of immigrants that is always united,” Corral said. “Fear will never break the ties that our ancestors have sown for us.”
He then described the community as one that, like a large family, takes care of each other.
“In moments of hurt we hug each other, we hold each other’s hands and we continue forward,” he said. Cabada reminded everyone that when we are born we do not have thoughts of racism, these, he said, are taught.
“Last Saturday, El Paso and Juarez experienced the most profound pain that a society could experience,” he said. “ Death, the loss of human lives. Innocent people died solely for the color of their skin or just for looking Hispanic. There are some that say they died at the hands of a white supremacist. I think that the true assassin was hate and ignorance.”
Cabada shared how many don’t understand the border of El Paso and its cohesiveness with Juarez, Mexico.
“They don’t understand that we are one community, two cities united by a river,” Cabada said. “The family ties of these cities have consoled each other and continue to grow stronger as time goes on. That’s why together we need to construct a society that is more just; that permits us to develop into human beings that treat one another with dignity. We ought to build a community where the actions are more important than the color of our skin – that our words matter more than the language.”
Cabada then quoted the Declaration of Independence in Spanish and asked that everyone remember those words that gave life to the United States.
“Sostenemos que estas verdades son evidentes, que todos los hombres son creasdos iguales, que su Creador les otogra ciertos derechos inalienables, entre los que se encuentran la vida, la libertad y la busqueda de la Felicidad.” – We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
As a dust storm blew in, the ceremony continued, and the names of the 22 were called out.
Leonard Cipeda Campos
Alexander Gerhard Hoffman
David Alvah Johnson
Luis Alfonzo Juárez
María Eugenia Legarreta
Elsa Libera Márquez
Ivan Filiberto Manzano
Gloria Irma Marquez
Sara Esther Regalado
Following the names was the mournful sound of bagpipes playing, “Amazing Grace.”
Many began to exit the stadium, calmly and solemnly – when suddenly, and in true El Paso and Juarez fashion, the Mariachi Alegre group entered the stage and began to sing.
The crowd cheered as the instruments and Juan Gabriel’s “Amor Eterno” introduction blasted through the speakers, fighting with the wind.
Many who had risen from their seats to head out, turned around and stopped and began to sing and cry.
As if on cue – the song the speakers were shut off but the Mariachis continued to play. The trumpet continued to ring through and the crowd carried the song.
“Pero como quisiera, que tu vivieras, que tus ojitos jamas se hubieran cerrada nunca, y estar mirandonos amor eterno e involidable tarde o temprano estare contigo para seguir amandonos.” – But how I wish, that you lived; that your little eyes had never closed and instead be looking at us with eternal and invincible love; sooner or later I will be with you so we can continue loving each other.
Let us not forget what happened on August 3, Cabada said.
“We will always remember August 3, for those of us who don’t remember our history are condemned to repeat it.”
“Let’s continue to love each other and care for each other El Paso and Juarez. We are sister cities, hermanos, and as such we need to heal together.”
Author: Alex Hinojosa | Photo Gallery: Johnny Yturrales – El Paso Herald Post