El Paso: These are the voices of a border community hit by hatred

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Here is what the people of El Paso have to say about coming face-to-face with hatred for the first time.

Castañeda, an assistant at the El Paso Sleep Center has been holding her son more since the shooting.

“I was watching over him and just wanted him real close when we were walking at the grocery store on Sunday,” Castañeda said. “I noticed other moms had their kids on their carts and didn’t want them walking around.”

Tony hasn’t been able to sleep in his own bed. He’s afraid that something will happen to his parents. He’s afraid, Castañeda said, but somehow he knows his community is resilient.

“We are strong! We are loved! Just like El Paso! Just like El Paso! — El Paso Strong!” he cheered during his boys scouts meeting this week.

Jose Burgos, 38

More than 20 years have passed since Burgos relocated to El Paso from his native Venezuela as a young physician looking to get a post-graduate degree and likely move on. He stayed because he wanted to raise his children in the safest place they could be.

“My concern as a Hispanic is that if they (authorities) don’t acknowledge that this community is afraid because we are not only racially attacked verbally — it’s also physically,” Burgos said. “At some point somebody is going to have a response to that and it’s not going to be a friendly response.”

“We need our leaders from any party to acknowledge the problem and bring us together,” he added.

Jorge A. Ortiz, 28

He’s been a soothing voice for half a dozen families at the center of the tragedy. Ortiz is the general manager of Perches Funeral Homes, a binational funeral home that is handling some of the victims’ funerals at no cost.

“It’s an act of humanity, an act of love for the community,” he said.

Claudia Portillo, 52

She knows how fear can take over your life. She fled Ciudad Juarez with her children after her husband was killed and found in El Paso a safe haven.

“I’m reliving those memories of living in Juarez back in the ’90s. You are looking behind your back all the time,” said Portillo, who works at a local genetic lab. “My children are grown adults, 29 and 27. They had to bury their dad 23 years ago and now — oh my goodness — it’s here. I don’t want it to be here.”

Ivan Flores, 27, and Derek, 4

He fears that one day he won’t be around for his son.

“The people that were targeted were people that look just like me,” said Flores, an insurance broker. “I have a 6-month-old (child) at home … I don’t know what my family would be going through if they lost me and his mom just like three kids lost their parents here.”

The Diaz family

Their devotion has been their greatest strength for years.

Armando Diaz, 43, and his wife Alma were planning a stop at the Walmart store the morning the shooting took place. A work call held him up and she couldn’t leave the house without their son Daniel.

Because their devotion has been their greatest strength for years, they are not hiding. They’ve driven dozens of miles from neighboring Socorro, Texas, to sing as a family at the victims’ memorial.

They hope El Paso families don’t forget the love they have for each other.

“We hope that when President Trump leaves El Paso, he has a different impression about us,” Armando Diaz says. “People are resentful (by his comments) and that can result in negative reactions but he must see how we really are as Latinos.”



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