Things That Matter

Vandals Destroyed A Hispanic Heritage Month Mural At Duke University And Here’s How Students Fought Back

Hispanic Heritage Month, also referred to as Latinx Heritage Month, is from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15 every year. It is meant to give recognition and praise to the accomplishments that Latinos have made in the U.S. The current political climate has been hostile to the Latino community and a recent even at Duke University shows the necessity of proudly owning ones Latinidad.

Latino students at Duke University wanted to show off their Latino pride for Hispanic Heritage Month.

Mi Gente / Facebook

Mi Gente is Duke University’s official Latinx student organization, which celebrates and organizes events around Hispanic Heritage Month. According to Sujeiry Jimenez, a co-president of Mi Gente, one of the events is “Pintando Murales” where students participate in the bridge painting.

“This mural functions as a sense of pride and acknowledgment of the Latinx community at Duke. It is used as a way to highlight the beginning a time when our culture is celebrated nationally,” Jimenez says. “It also serves as a way to publicize Latinx Heritage Month to the Duke community and extend an invitation to our programming for the month.”

The mural was defaced less than 24 hours after it was completed.

Mi Gente / Facebook

Jimenez says that the group was unaware of any negative sentiment toward the mural. The mural painting is something that the organization does every year. According to Jimenez, there has never been a negative reaction in the past.

FBI data shows that hate crimes have risen since President Trump won the 2016 elections. The NAACP has credited the increase in hate crimes to Trump’s own legacy of division and racism. According to reports, Trump’s name has been invoked by people carrying out hate crimes against different communities.

Jimenez isn’t completely surprised by the vandalism, however.

Mi Gente / Facebook

The increase in hate crimes across the nation have been tied to increased negative rhetoric about immigrant and minority communities. The Southern Poverty Law Center directly blames President Trump’s rhetoric about minority groups as the cause of increased hate crimes. Communities facing the surge of hate-related violence share the same sentiment.

“Fears of incidents like this happening were very present in our community as other minority communities at Duke had already been victims of targeted crimes,” Jimenez explains. “I felt devastated but not completely shocked. Incidents like this had happened at Duke not long before this. Before classes even started this year, the Mary Lou Williams Center for Black Culture was also the target of an act of hate speech.”

The students, rather than shying away, repainted the mural as an act of fighting back against the hate.

Ana Trejo / Facebook

Jimenez says it only took a few hours to report the vandalism, send a message to organization members and reconvene to fix the mural.

“As a both a leader and member of the Latinx community it was very powerful to see the response not only from our own community but from the larger Duke community,” Jimenez recalls. “We, as a community decided to write over the spray paint, but not with the intention of covering it up. We wanted to send a message of resilience and show that we could rise about the hate. Then, we recreated our mural to the side of where the original one was.”

They decided to send the vandals a message of their strength while letting the hate show.

Mi Gente / Facebook

Jimenez says the group choice the phrase, “They tried to bury us. They didn’t know we were seeds.” because of it’s cultural significance. For many Latinos, the Mexican proverb has been in their homes and at their demonstrations.

“We have to keep fighting. Engage and empower your communities. Show up and stand up for your community. This is all of our fights,” Jimenez says. “This is going to be a long fight, but we must work now so that future generations can continue and build on the work we start today! We must create space in spaces that were not created for us. Póngansen las pilas y échenle ganas, la lucha sigue.”


READ: Felony Hate Crime Charges Have Been Filed Against The Man Who Harassed A Woman For Wearing A Puerto Rico Flag Shirt

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Memorial For Vanessa Guillen Was Vandalized And People Came Together To Clean It Up

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Memorial For Vanessa Guillen Was Vandalized And People Came Together To Clean It Up

Vanessa Guillen’s disappearance earlier this year ignited a firestorm of concern and anger across the country. The anger has resurfaced after a person vandalized and destroyed a memorial in honor of the murdered soldier. Here’s what we know so far about the vandalism that was caught on surveillance camera.

The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) released surveillance footage of a person vandalizing the site.

Vandal Destroys Vanessa Guillen Memorial Mural in Killeen, Fort Hood

VANESSA GUILLEN MEMORIAL VANDALIZED HOURS AFTER HER BIRTHDAYNation’s Oldest and Largest Latino Civil Rights Organization Says Suspect Caught on Video at Site of Tribute Mural for Slain SoldierWashington, DC – The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) today asked for the public’s help in providing information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the person caught on camera overnight defacing a public memorial site erected by the community to remember and honor Specialist Vanessa Guillen."I would ask that we focus on reminding the community that the mural is there to bring the community together and bring awareness to sexual assault, sexual harassment and its prevention,” said Analuisa Tapia, LULAC District Director. ’Our community has already been damaged by the loss of one too many soldiers. We ask that we collectively take care of the mural as we honor our service members who live in that silent combat,” she added.Rodolfo Rosales, Jr., Texas LULAC State Director and Linda Chavez, LULAC National Board Member and Vice-President for the Southwest are monitoring the situation. “We abhor any type of vandalism and destruction of property,” says Rosales. “The only thing we believe in is peaceful and nonviolent action,” he added.

Posted by LULAC on Friday, October 2, 2020

The vandalism occurred on Oct. 1 in the very early morning hours. The act is captured in its entirety on camera with the perpetrator attacked the memorial in Killeen, Texas multiple times.

“I would ask that we focus on reminding the community that the mural is there to bring the community together and bring awareness to sexual assault, sexual harassment and its prevention,” Analuisa Tapia, LULAC District Director, said in a statement. “Our community has already been damaged by the loss of one too many soldiers. We ask that we collectively take care of the mural as we honor our service members who live in that silent combat.”

People are outraged that someone would vandalize the memorial.

The attack on the memorial happened just hours after what would have been her 21 birthday. The video shows a person running through the memorial from the sidewalk and kicking over candles. They then double back and run back through the memorial kicking more candles. According to KCEN, the site was cleaned up and fixed just hours after the vandalism occurred.

“We abhor any type of vandalism and destruction of property,” Rodolfo Rosales, Jr., Texas LULAC State Director said in a statement. “The only thing we believe in is peaceful and nonviolent action.”

Guillen went missing on April 22 and growing public pressure led to a formal investigation.

On June 30, Guillen’s body was found not far from the military base where she was last seen. Another body of a missing soldier was found while authorities were searching for Guillen.

Shortly after the body was found, 20-year-old Army Specialist Aaron Robinson and Cecily Aguilar were the prime suspects. According to reports, Robinson admitted to killing Guille by striking her in the back of the head with a hammer.

State politicians are calling on authorities to find those responsible.

Guillen’s search was national news as people were desperate to learn what happened to the young Latina. Civilians were calling on the military to launch a formal investigation into Fort Hood to find out what happened to Guillen.

Police confronted Robinson about the death of Guillen and Robinson shot and killed himself. Aguilar was arrested by police in connection to Guillen’s death and disappearance. Aguilar is charged with one count of conspiracy to tamper with evidence after admitting Robinson asked her to help dispose of the body. She has entered a “not guilty” plea and her court date is scheduled for Sept. 28.

Rest easy, Vanessa Guillen.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the Guillen family as they continue to grapple with this tragedy. After months of hoping to find their loved one, Guillen’s remains were discovered near the military base. The Guillen family has used the death to push for change and drafted legislation they hope will become law to help military personnel.

Guillen confided in family and friends that she was the victim of sexual harassment by Robinson. Her disappearance happened soon after she decided to come forward and report the harassment. The I Am Vanessa Guillen bill seeks to create an independent way for victims of sexual harassment in the military to report. The bill would also make sexual harassment a punishable offense under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

READ: Vanessa Guillen’s Family To Meet With Trump And Introduce Bill To Protect Military Personnel Reporting Sexual Harassment

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Police Identify, Arrest Man Accused Of Destroying Beloved Jesus Statue In El Paso Church

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Police Identify, Arrest Man Accused Of Destroying Beloved Jesus Statue In El Paso Church

An important Jesus statue in an El Paso church has been destroyed and police have arrested the suspect. The statue in St. Patrick’s Cathedral was taken down and decapitated and the person police suspect to be responsible has been arrested.

Earlier this week, a 90-year-old Jesus statue was decapitated by a vandal who destroyed the St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

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We are saddened to announce the vandalism at St. Patrick Cathedral earlier today. The Cathedral was vandalized this morning at around 10:00am. A suspect came into the sanctuary at St. Patrick Cathedral and destroyed the almost 90-year-old statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which was located in the center behind the main altar of the church. The church was open and available for prayer. A suspect has been detained by the El Paso Police department. The police are currently continuing their investigation into the vandalism. The Rector of St. Patrick Cathedral, Fr. Trini Fuentes, said, “I am in shock and we at the Cathedral are heartbroken over such an unexpected situation.” Bishop Seitz also expressed his sadness about the damage caused to the historic Sacred Heart of Jesus Statue. “This statue is one of my favorite representations of Jesus—his arms open wide in welcome, his heart aflame with love for us. I would often take inspiration from this image as I prepared for Mass.” “As sad as I am to see a statue attacked and destroyed, I am grateful that it was not a living person,” Bishop Seitz added. “But a statue, particularly this statue, concretizes and connects us to persons and ideals that are not visible to our eyes. They reveal to us realities that are close to us, but unseen,” he said. “At this point we do not know anything about the person who carried out this assault, but he certainly must be a person who is greatly disturbed to have attacked this peaceful place in our city and this image of the King of Peace. I hope this might be the impetus for him to receive the help he needs. He will be in my prayers,” Bishop Seitz added. “I am devastated at this irreplaceable loss as I know members of this parish community and the whole Church of El Paso will be. In this moment we will reach out in confidence to the One this statue represented and I know he will console us,” Bishop Seitz concluded. St. Patrick, Patron of Ireland and our Diocese, Pray for us.

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The community was rocked when the damage was reported. The statue has been behind the church’s main altar for decades. The vandal attacked the statue at around 10:00 a.m. when the church was opened for prayer when the vandal attacked.

El Paso police have arrested a man in connection to the vandalism.

According to a press release from the police department, 30-year-old Isaiah Cantrell has been arrested for the vandalism. The damage to the statue is estimated to be about $25,000 and Cantrell’s bail has been set at $20,500. El Pasoans are angered at the man for destroying the irreplaceable statue.

“This statue is one of my favorite representations of Jesus—his arms open wide in welcome, his heart aflame with love for us,” Bishop Seitz said about the destruction of the historic Sacred Heart of Jesus statue. “I would often take inspiration from this image as I prepared for Mass.”

Statues like the Sacred Heart of Jesus statue are important to communities that are used to seeing them. The destruction has left clergymen and parishioners angered and saddened by the loss of the statue. It is a historic part of the El Paso religious community having overseen masses since before World War II.

The Diocese of El Paso is raising money to help St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

The funds raised by the Diocese of El Paso and the Foundation for the Diocese of El Paso will be used on the St. Patrick’s Cathedral. The money raised will be used to fix the shattered statue as well as add security and do renovations to the famed church.

“I am devastated at this irreplaceable loss as I know members of this parish community and the whole Church of El Paso will be,” Bishop Seitz said. “In this moment we will reach out in confidence to the One this statue represented and I know he will console us.”

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