EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) — Latino activists from across the Southwestern United States plan to gather Saturday in El Paso to channel grief and anger over the Aug. 3 Walmart massacre through music, song and poetry.
The #ElPasoFirme Festival begins at 4 p.m. at Ascarate Park, 6900 Delta Drive, and includes artists such as La Santa Cecilia, Rebeca Lane, Los Frontera, Dueto Dos Rosas, Cuco and Ana Tijoux. In between performances speakers will address issues such as racism and white supremacy, the Central American refugee crisis, family separations at the border and the violence in Mexico.
Prior to the concert, the activists plan a march from the Border Agricultural Workers Center, 201 E. 9th Ave., to Sacred Heart Church, 602 S. Oregon St.
“For a long time immigrants have been used as scapegoats in this country, but what happened here in El Paso constitutes an escalation: we are still scapegoats but we have now become targets. We cannot accept such new reality,” said Pablo Alvarado, a Los Angeles writer and day laborer organizer. “We want to tell those people that we don’t hate them, but that we do not fear them, either.”
Erika Andiola, of Tempe, Arizona, said the Walmart shooting motivated her to come to the El Paso event. The alleged shooter, Patrick Crusius, reportedly told authorities that he came to El Paso from North Texas with an assault rifle to kill Mexicans. Twenty-two people were killed and 25 more were injured in the attack.
“That was the moment I said ‘we cannot let them speak to us like that, we cannot let them do this to our communities,'” said Andiola, who works for a migrant legal services group called RAICES. “One of the ways our Latino community heals is through music. We come together to celebrate even if we’re going through a really hard time. That’s why we’re here; we’re here to lift each other up with a concert.”
El Pasoan Lorena Andrade said it’s hard to accept there are people in the United States who hate others for being Hispanic. “It hurts your spirit to endure such feelings, such attacks. Your heart feels the burden of pain, the anger of injustice, but we try to find balance in poetry, in writing, in music. That is one of the things that unites our people, that builds our community,” said Andrade, a collaborator at Mujer Obrera, a women’s assistance and cultural organization.
Event organizer Fernando Garcia, of the Border Network for Human Rights, said a lot of issues remain unresolved after the massacre: nothing has been done to restrict assault-style weapons while the aggressive white supremacist and anti-immigrant rhetoric that he and others say inspired the shooting has not subsided, and those who encouraged it have not faced consequences.
“#ElPasoFirme stems from a community that’s hurting but that will heal by fighting back against white supremacy, racism and xenophobia,” he said. “We don’t expect any safety issues at this festival. It is a family event. If someone comes to make trouble, to try to provoke us, we will not do anything. We’re going to have dozens of El Paso County Sheriff’s deputies and other security personnel; we will let them handle it.”