Things That Matter

El Paso Artists Joined Together To Commemorate El Paso Gun Violence Victims With A Mural That Highlights Community Strength

Just seven weeks after the massacre at an El Paso Wal-Mart that took the lives of 22 people and injured 24 others, the border city is still recovering from their tragic losses. Though the victims have been laid to rest and the survivors are working towards healing, the city is still feeling the effects of the life-shattering experience. 

As national news has moved on from the tragedy, the minds and hearts of local El Pasoans are still with the embattled town. 

With that in mind, a new mural created by a pair of talented street artists has been created to celebrate the power of the Texas town. 

Twitter / @AlyssaCBS4

El Paso brothers, John Ramirez and Jamie Hernandez Jr., worked hard to craft this graffiti style mural. Reading “El Poderoso Tejano,” the vast wall painting is located between Ascarate Street and Valencia Place on the United States side of the border city. The mural was sponsored by local tee-shirt company, OG Family. The company will be selling tee-shirts of the mural design and all profits from their sale will go to the victims of the El Paso assault.

“It shows that everybody came as a community,” David Barbosa, co-owner of OG Family said of the mural. “For one purpose. That purpose is to show that we’re united no matter what happens. At the end, El Paso is united.”

The mural will also be featured in a music video for local El Paso record label, 915 Records Familia. The rap video will be filmed on September 28th. During the video shoot, a local car show will also take place at the mural’s site bringing together El Paso’s car community, rap community and street art community all in one spot. 

Though the Ramirez Brothers are now getting the credit they deserve for this mural, they were not named by local El Paso media who first reported the new artwork

Twitter / @cassyjernandez1 

In a video first promoting the mural, the brothers were not named as the artists. Instead, they were called “unlikely artists” and “former gang members.” Thankfully, Cassie Hernandez, a family member of the two artists, took to Twitter and credited them for their amazing work. 

In response, Twitter applauded the Ramirez Brothers’ craftsmanship and celebrated the spirit of El Paso’s survivors. 

 Twitter / @braydenbern

This Twitter user called out the attention to detail the artists put into the piece and also credited their commitment to graffiti-style art. The street art style came into popularity in the 1980s with the emergence of hip-hop culture. Cholo-inspired graffiti script especially became a calling card of Latinx communities and their street artists. While street art was once looked down upon, it is now celebrated for the unique and bold art form that it is.  

Many supporters were offended on the Ramirez Brothers’ behalf for the dis by local news. 

 Twitter / @angelitaaaxo

The original news story definitely did a disservice by leaving out the Ramirez Brothers’ names and by calling out any speculative former gang affiliation they might have had. Instead, their work as amazing artists and dedicated members of their community should be commended. There’s nothing “unlikely” about their talent or their love for El Paso.

This mural joins others that have recently gone up in El Paso to honor the victims of mass shootings.

Tweet / @thedailybeast

A mural honoring Joaquin Oliver, a victim of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre, was unveiled the day after the tragedy in El Paso. The mural was planned before the Wal-Mart attack so the timing made the new addition to El Paso even more heartbreaking. Local artist Gabe Vasquez also created a mural reading “El Paso Strong” dedicated to the spirit of the border city.

Seven Men Sentenced To Up To 50 Years For The Murder Of Honduran Environmental Activist Berta Caceres

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Seven Men Sentenced To Up To 50 Years For The Murder Of Honduran Environmental Activist Berta Caceres

Berta Caceres Flores / Facebook

Seven men were sentenced to up to 50 years in prison in a Honduras court on Monday for the 2016 murder of the environmental activist Berta Caceres. Four of the men, Elvin Rápalo, Henry Hernández, Edilson Duarte, and Oscar Torres Velásquez, who were identified as the hitmen hired to shoot Caceres dead in her own home, were sentenced to 34 years in prison each.

An additional 16 years and four months were handed down to them for the attempted murder of Mexican environmentalist Gustavo Castro, who was also with Caceres during the shooting. Three more prison terms of 30 years were handed down to other individuals that played a part in the murder including an officer, an ex-soldier, and a manager of the dam project that Caceres opposed. The three men reportedly paid the four gunmen $4,000 to kill Caceres because of her activism work. 

The slaying of Berta Caceres, then-45, brought international outrage and protests as she became a well-known women’s rights defender and indigenous lands rights activist. 

Caceras, a member of the Lenca indigenous community, may not have been a household name but her impact in the world of environmental rights was certainly felt. She was one of the co-founders of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras, a grassroots organization that advocates for the rights of indigenous people. Caceras gained notoriety by protesting the company Desarrollos Energeticos (DESA), which had planned to create the $50 million Agua Zarca hydroelectric dam across from the Gualcarque River. Various indigenous communities depend on the river staying clean and healthy and free-flowing to sustain their communities.

“The river is like blood running through your veins. It’s unjust. Not only is it unjust, it’s a crime to attack a river that has life, that has spirits,” Caceres told Aljazeera in 2016. 

The building of the dam would have had major impact on water, food and medicine for her Lenca people and even caused flooding. One of her successful protests included placing a roadblock that halted construction workers from reaching the dam building site. After almost 10 years of opposition, the Chinese state-owned company Sinohydro, who was jointly developing the dam project with DESA, pulled out of the project citing community resistance. 

Her activism and work in stopping the building of the dam gave Caceres notoriety and international attention. Caceres was awarded the Goldman environmental prize in 2015 for her role in preventing the building of the dam. The project was suspended shortly following her untimely death.

Authorities have connected her death directly to her activism work against the failed dam project.

The individuals behind the death of Caceres were connected to executives that were connected to DESA and the failed dam project. The reasoning behind the plotted murder was due to multiple delays and financial losses that were linked to protests that Caceres was behind. Back in November 2018, a Honduran court convicted the seven men for the attack. 

“From the outset, the path to justice has been painful, as our rights as victims have not been respected. These sentences are a start in breaking the impunity, but we’re going to make every effort to ensure that all those responsible – the company executives and state officials identified in the trial – are prosecuted,” Bertita Zúñiga, Cáceres’ second-eldest daughter, said after the men were charged on Monday. 

While Caceres’ family is happy to see some justice be delivered, Zúñiga still believes the real culprits behind her the murder still on the loose. She has previously blamed the Atala-Zablah family, a well-known Honduran business group and DESA shareholders, as the ones behind her mother’s murder. 

“This is a day of pain because the intellectual authors of my mother’s murder are still enjoying impunity,” Zuniga said to reporters. “We are not going to believe that there’s true justice until these people are in jail.”

Despite this tragedy, Zuniga is not letting her mother’s legacy go to waste.

The message that Caceres spread of protecting indigenous communities still lives on according to her daughter, who continues to do similar work. She is committed to keeping her mother’s legacy alive and remembers her for the amazing impact she had on marginalized communities around the globe. 

“I remember her as a hardworking person. But I also remember her with a big smile on her face, because I believe that this struggle cannot be just to martyrize ourselves. We fight with joy and hope because if we do not, more than half of the struggle is lost,” Zúñiga told EarthJustice. “We always say that the image of my mother multiplied because we found her present in the struggle of so many women from so many communities who continue to fight very hard.

READ: Women Of The World Unite To Chant ‘A Rapist In Your Way’ A Chilean Song That Has Sparked A Global Feminist Movement

Chicago Woman Arrested For Trying To Kill Her Ex-Girlfriend’s New Partner Via Hitman

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Chicago Woman Arrested For Trying To Kill Her Ex-Girlfriend’s New Partner Via Hitman

Cook County Sheriff's Office / @raferweigel / Twitter

A Chicago woman has been arrested for trying to hire a hitman to kill the woman now dating her ex-girlfriend. Lissette Ortiz, 54, planned to flee to Puerto Rico after the woman was murdered, but she didn’t plan for the hitman being an undercover cop. Ortiz had offered a man, who remains anonymous, either a TV and $500 or $5,000 for the name of a hitman. The man immediately contacted the Chicago Police Department, who asked him to give the name of an undercover police officer. 

Ortiz met with the undercover cop, thinking he was the man who would kill Washington’s new girlfriend, on Nov. 20, and sat in the car with him for an hour. She detailed how she wanted the woman to burn alive in her car, and to know that it was Ortiz who was behind it all.

Lissette Ortiz told the undercover police officer exactly how he wanted to kill the woman, and how she would stage her alibi.

CREDIT: COOK COUNTY SHERIFFS OFFICE

Ortiz believes that the woman, who remains anonymous, was the reason for her breakup with an ex-girlfriend, Marni Washington. Cook County Assistant State Attorney Jack Costello told ABC that, at first, Ortiz asked the anonymous man to “kidnap the victim and bring the victim to her so she could take care of the rest.” When the anonymous man turned informant and led her to an undercover cop, the story became much more gruesome. Ortiz “told the undercover that her plan after the undercover kidnapped and delivered the victim to her was to put the victim into a car while tied up and set the car on fire in a remote location,” Costello told the outlet. Her plan seemed to continue to evolve as she sat in the car with the man she believed would kill this woman. 

Later, she said that she wanted him to be the one to take the victim to the remote location in mind and set her and her car on fire.

Ortiz wanted the woman killed before Thanksgiving so that she never spent a holiday in the home where Ortiz once lived.

CREDIT: @NPAIPR / TWITTER

Assistant State Attorney Costello told ABC that Ortiz wanted “the crime to occur prior to Thanksgiving so that the victim could not celebrate the holiday in the home” that Ortiz used to share with Washington. Still, Ortiz planned to be on vacation while the woman was burning to death. “She was sure authorities would be looking for her after the murder and she wanted to have an alibi,” Costello told the outlet. 

Instead of boarding that flight to Puerto Rico, Ortiz’s recorded conversation with the undercover cop will likely land her anywhere from 20 to 40 years in prison. In addition to plotting Washington’s girlfriend’s death, Ortiz admitted to the cop that this would be her second attempt at murder-by-hitman. The first time she hired a hitman, he ran away with her money.

It seems as if Ortiz attempted to use the legal system to retaliate against Washington once before.

CREDIT: @RAFERWEIGEL / TWITTER

Marni Washington, 50, is a Chicago police officer assigned to Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s security detail with over 17 years on the force. Washington and Ortiz shared a home together in the Galewood neighborhood of Northwest Chicago, but, as their relationship deteriorated over the course of a year, Washington asked Ortiz to move out in May. Later, Ortiz alleged that Washington pinned her against a wall, leaving a bruise on her collarbone on June 27, and pressed charges. On July 3, Washington turned herself in, after a warrant was posted for her arrest. Washington was booked and paid her bond of $10,000. Washington was placed on paid desk-duty during the duration of her trial.

After a full day of trial in mid-August, Domestic Violence Court Judge Megan Goldish cleared Washington of all charges, citing in-home surveillance videos that showed no physical altercation. The defense provided images of Ortiz taken the following day of the alleged assault that showed Ortiz had no bruises and even contradicted her own testimony, during which she said Washington took her car keys away from her. Images of Ortiz holding car keys in her hand had weakened her credibility. As Judge Goldish cleared the charges, Washington reportedly smiled, while Ortiz stormed out of the courtroom, shouting, “This is unfair! You know you erased that video.”

Ortiz has an arrest history on theft charges and is currently being held without bond.  If convicted, Ortiz will face 20 to 40 years in prison.

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