The city of San Antonio is consider a permanent memorial to honor the 53 migrants who died in a human smuggling attempt in June.
A temporary memorial has been erected at the site of the deadly incident. The monument features 53 crosses representing those who lost their lives. The large crosses are covered with the names and photos of the victims. Additionally, flags of Honduras, Mexico, and Guatemala are placed around the memorial. The three flags represent the countries of origin of the victims.
Adriana Rocha Garcia, councilwoman for district 4, helps lead the charge for the permanent monument. The councilor said members of the community gathered to honor the victims days after the incident.
“It happened organically…with contributions from everyone,” Rocha Garcia told Land Line. “People bring flowers. People bring teddy bears. Someone hung flags. It is literally a collection of community compassion.
Homeland Security officials have called the case the deadliest human trafficking incident on US soil. According 2021 data from the US Census Bureau, 64.7% of San Antonio’s population is Hispanic or Latino. For many townspeople, Rocha Garcia said crime hit close to home.
“A lot of people in our community have had experiences themselves or family members that kind of made the same trip to get to the United States. Or they know someone who has,” she said. “And so it’s very impactful because immediately they think, ‘it could have been me’ or ‘it could have been a family member’.”
In addition to individual community support, the councilor said several businesses have stepped up to support the memorial, donating building materials and solar-powered lighting.
Additionally, Rocha Garcia said the city is already working with stakeholders to secure permission to build the memorial on the site where the tragedy occurred. When it comes to funding the memorial, the city is looking to partner with nonprofit groups and philanthropists to help fund the permanent site.
“I’ve had a few private companies already that have said they’re interested in helping support a permanent memorial,” Rocha Garcia says News4 in San Antonino. “Which is reassuring that the wider community wants to do this as well.”
Rocha Garcia told Land Line that she expects the planning phase for the project to begin this fall. She says the city will seek public input for the project, as well as input from groups working to combat human trafficking. The adviser said she does not expect the project to gain traction until early next year.
In the meantime, the city will continue to let the temporary memorial stand. However, Rocha Garcia admitted that she fears the first big storm could bring everything crashing down. The counselor says it is important to remember the 53 lives lost in the deadly tragedy.
“We don’t want people to forget what happened there. We want to make sure we consider it sacred ground,” she said. “These people died coming to the United States for a better life. There isn’t a single one of us who already lives in the United States who doesn’t want this – doesn’t want a better life for their families. So I invited everyone, the whole community, to come out and realize how lucky they are not to have to make this journey and potentially lose their lives. Because they are lucky enough to live in the United States and have the opportunity to advance their families without having to sacrifice their lives.
Charges have been filed against two men, Christian Martinez and Homero Zamorano Jr., in connection with the fatal incident. August 5, Martinez entered a plea of not guilty. If convicted, both men face life in prison or the death penalty. LL