Things That Matter

Mexican Communities Around The Country Are Honoring El Paso Victims With Día De Muertos Ofrendas

Dia de Muertos or Day of the Dead is November 2, and ofrendas are popping up all around the country to honor the El Paso shooting victims. The annual Mexican tradition is a time of reflection and celebration of lives lost. Each year ofrendas or altars are created with tokens, photos, and sentimental mementos of those who passed.

This year ofrendas all over the country will commemorate the 22 El Paso shooting victims who were killed in a targeted attack against the Latinx community on August 3, 2019. The incident occurred when a 21-year-old white male drove 11 hours to El Paso, Texas to shoot “Hispanics.” 

The man killed 22 and injured 26 patrons of a Walmart, 20 minutes after posting a racist, anti-immigrant manifesto to a social media website used by white supremacists. The shooter talked of a “Hispanic invasion of Texas.” The rhetoric was not unfamiliar to anyone who has tuned into President Trump’s rallies where he once referred to Mexicans as rapists. 

The Latinx community is still healing and Dia de Muertos is a great opportunity to begin suturing up the wounds. 

The Mexican Cultural Insitute in Washington D.C.

The Mexican Cultural Institute in Washington, D.C. will have an altar for El Paso victims during their Dia de Muertos celebration on November 2. The event will also include dance, music, food, and performances. 

Mexican artist Enrique Quiroz will create the altar that will honor the 22 people who were killed in the gruesome mass shooting. According to DCist, the altar will also include tributes to prominent Mexican icons that died in 2019 like humanitarian León Portilla, singer José José, and artist Francisco Toledo. 

The Mexic-Arte Museum in Texas altar will honor El Paso victims.

 The Mexic-Arte Museum has encouraged local residents to contribute photos, messages, and sentimental items to their altar. It has been on display since September 13 and will remain until November 24. Meanwhile, the museum puts on the city’s largest and longest-running Day of the Dead celebration on October 26. 

“The violence targeted our community,” Mario Villanueva, the museum’s marketing and events associate, told the Statesman. “As Mexic-Arte Museum, a safe space that amplifies Mexican American and Latino culture, it’s our duty to let the community know that we hear your pain.”

The ofrenda entitled “Ofrenda a Nuestra Comunidad Internacional de El Paso,” has had a positive response in the area with many offering to participate and provide items. 

“Some of them were hurting,” Villanueva said. “They just want to help in any way possible.”

The National Museum of Mexican Art in Chicago

“Day of the Dead Xicágo is just getting started and more than 90 ofrendas are set up! This altar is fondly dedicated to Felipe Ruiz and Andrea Sebastian Arzate, who are remembered for being loving and caring grandparents. Come see more altars created by people of all walks of life and share in their heartfelt stories,” the museum wrote on Instagram. 

At the “Love Never Dies Ball,” on November 2, the National Museum’s ofrendas will feature El Paso victims as well children separated at the border and those who have died in ICE custody. The Chicago Latinx community has been outspoken about the Trump administration’s immigration policies. 

“The motives behind the El Paso massacre were clearly directed at Latinos, and they were rooted in the damaging rhetoric that came into the national spotlight when Donald Trump began using words like ‘invasion’ and ‘drug dealers and rapists’ to describe immigrants crossing the southern border,” the Latino Policy Forum, a Chicago advocacy organization, said in an August statement. 

Hip Latina reports that other Day of the Dead celebrations in Texas will take place at Houston Community College, University of Texas at El Paso and local churches. Each will honor the victims of the El Paso shooting. 

The El Paso Walmart will open its doors for a memorial. 

The El Paso Walmart where the shooting took place will reopen its doors on November 14. The store will not hold a celebration so much as a memorial for the victims. 

“This will not be a celebratory atmosphere or environment,” Todd Peterson, vice president of Walmart and regional general manager, told KERA news. “We’ll just simply open the doors.”

Peterson also unveiled a mockup of a permanent tribute sculpture that will be on the south side of the parking lot of the store. 

“The focal point…will be a grand candela,” Peterson said. “Twenty-two individual perforated aluminum arcs, grouped together into one, single 30-foot candela, symbolizing unity and emanating light into the sky.”

Family members and survivors of the shooting will be able to view the memorial privately before the public. The Cielo Vista Walmart has not opened its doors since the shooting on August 3. While they may not exactly be Dia de Muertos ofrendas community members have already created a makeshift memorial to the victims. 

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Hate Crimes Towards Latinos Spiked in 2019; Overall Highest They’ve Been in a Decade

Things That Matter

Hate Crimes Towards Latinos Spiked in 2019; Overall Highest They’ve Been in a Decade

Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images

In April of 2019, Connie and Michelle Pineda moved into the quiet suburban neighborhood of Lake Forest in Louisville, Kentucky. At first, their lives were peaceful and uneventful. But soon, the family began to receive a barrage of mysterious harassment.

First, it was the odd chemical burns they found on their front lawn–marks that seemed man-made. Then, some neighborhood kids called the Pineda children a racial slur (the Pinedas are a mixed Latino-Filipino family).

Soon, Connie and Michelle Pineda were waking up to a bright orange swastika accompanied by the n-word spray painted on their driveway.

Photo: Michela Connie Pineda/Facebook

The Pinedas checked their security cameras and discovered the culprit: their neighbor, 52-year-old Suzanne Craft. The Pinedas reported Craft to the authorities, and she was charged with criminal mischief and sentenced to seven days in jail. But that hasn’t stopped her from continuing the harassment. A bag of bullets recently appeared on the Pinedas’ front lawn. It came with a note that read: Get out.

“They live in fear,” the Pinedas’ attorney Vanessa Cantley told The Washington Post. “They have five children and three of them are old enough to know exactly what’s happening. They won’t go out and play in the yard. They won’t go out to walk the neighborhood. They are basically prisoners in their own home. The whole family sleeps in the living room, where there are no windows, because they just don’t know what this woman is capable of.”

Photo: Michela Connie Pineda/Facebook

Unfortunately, stories like this are becoming more and more common in the United States.

The FBI released their annual report detailing hate crime statistics and the data showed that hate crimes have reached their highest level in more than a decade. The report also showed the highest amount of hate-motivated killing since the FBI began collected this type of data in the early 1990s.

According to the FBI report, there were 51 hate-motivated killings in 2019. Twenty-two of those murders were from the El Paso Shooting.

In August of 2019, a gunman open-fired on patrons at a Wal-Mart in El Paso, Texas. It was later discovered that the shooting was racially-motivated. Previous to his killing spree, the shooter wrote on Facebook that Mexicans were “invading” the United States.

Hate crimes against Latinos spiked to 527 in 2019, up from 485 in 2018. Many critics are attributing the rise in hate crimes to the divisive culture we live in–much of which is fueled by President Trump’s racist anti-Latino rhetoric. “When the president calls [Latinos] rapists and criminals, what do you think is gonna happen?” said one Twitter user in response to the news. “His words have meaning to a lot of people and their actions are harmful for our society.”

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President Trump Declares Día de Muertos a ‘National Remembrance Day’ For Americans ‘Killed By Illegal Aliens’

Things That Matter

President Trump Declares Día de Muertos a ‘National Remembrance Day’ For Americans ‘Killed By Illegal Aliens’

Photo: PEDRO PARDO/AFP via Getty Images

On October 30th, President Donald Trump released a memo declaring November 1st a “National Day of Remembrance for Americans Killed By Illegal Aliens”.

Almost immediately, Latinos recognized that Trump’s “day of remembrance” directly coincided with another significant day of remembrance–Dia de Muertos.

The proclamation stated that the purpose of the rememberance day was to honor the lives of Americans who were “so egregiously taken from us by criminal illegal aliens.” It continued: “As sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, and as American citizens, these precious lives are an irreplaceable piece of our national community.”

Trump concluded the statement by saying that we “recommit to ensuring that those responsible for these tragedies face justice, while taking every action to prevent these horrific acts from occurring in our Nation.”

Naturally, many Americans saw this as a direct slap in the face to Latinos who celebrate Dia de Muertos on the same day.

It is no secret that Trump has openly derided Mexican immigrants on multiple occasions, calling them “drug dealers”, “criminals”, “rapists”, and “bad hombres”.

Throughout his term, he has sought to limit all forms of immigration from the Southern border–even asylum seekers. His reasoning is that immigrants from Mexico are violent and dangerous, but statistics paint a different story. Studies have shown that crime rates are actually lower among immigrants than they are among native-born Americans.

This type of cultural insensitivity reminds is reminiscent of Trump’s Oklahoma campaign rally over the summer. As a refresher, Trump held the rally in Tulsa on June 11th–also known as Juneteenth, a holiday celebrating the emancipation of Black Americans from slavery. The fact that the rally was held in Tulsa also added insult to injury. Tulsa is the infamous site of the Tulsa Race Massacre, where jealous white Americans slaughtered residents of Oklahoma’s “Black Wall Street” en masse. Either Trump didn’t do his homework, or he was blatantly inflaming historical racial wounds. Either way, the decision was thoughtless.

Of course, many people on Twitter were shocked and appalled by Trump’s ‘National Remembrance Day’ proclamation.

This proclamation reeks of blatant race-baiting and overall disrespect for this deeply sentimental Latin American tradition.

This Latina doesn’t seem to be convinced that the date Trump chose for this “Remembrance Day” was coincidental.

The anti-Latino sentiment coming from Trump is undeniable this time.

This Twitter user couldn’t help but point out the hypocrisy of calling certain immigrants “illegal” when the OG illegal immigrants were white colonizers.

Where is the remembrance day for the millions of Indigenous people killed by European colonizers? Or the millions of Africans who were stolen from their ancestral homes and forced into slavery?

This Twitter user pointed out the statistical disparity between Americans killed by “illegal aliens” and those killed by COVID-19.

We wish Donald Trump would’ve used this same energy when it came to containing and controlling the spread of the coronavirus across the United States at the beginning of this year.

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