By Corinne Chacón
In the hours and days after the tragic assault on El Paso which took place at the Cielo Vista Walmart on August 3, 2019, I grappled, like so many others, with a swarm of emotions. My feelings included shock, intense sadness, a fury at the murderous hatred directed at my gente, and, tremendous grief for my community and all that we lost in those terrible minutes.
Inspired by the responses of other artists and the outpouring of loving support by the community, as I was immersed in that tangle of emotions, the only action I could turn to was to create. My poster, “El Paso Strong Maseta,” emerged from that crucible of intensity. The photograph of the
maseta with agave reaching up into a classic El Paso sky of bright blue with clouds, became the backdrop. I took this photograph with my phone earlier this year as I stepped out of one of my favorite Mexican restaurants—one of those Eastside places that celebrates la cultura con todo corazón. The
maseta, the pot, conveys the massive strength of our cultura, of our people, to contain, to shape, to nurture, to endure the extreme, unyielding nature of our desert home. Reinforced securely by a strip of braided iron, the maseta’s texture shows the wear of the elements, but, no sign of cracking under the pressure.
At the top of the poster, I added 22 hearts that almost matched the color of the sky to honor the victims whose souls ascended into the heavenly realms on that day. Underneath I added the date of the shooting and the words “never forget.”
Because so much of my work in the community has taken place under the banner of “Mano y Corazón,” a unique effort to advocate for healthcare approaches that marry body and soul, I added the organization’s name and logo. Finally, my tía’s suggestion for the presentation we developed to educate the public about traumatic grief was added to the image. She recommended the phrase “Learn, Hope, Heal.”
For me, this image conveys the underlying matrix, la cultura Mexicana, which is what truly makes El Paso such a strong community. We are linked by history, by politics, by the sun, the desert, by the rich earth from which our food emerges, and the unique clay content that makes Mexican pottery
possible. What also links us together is the way we turn to each other, to our families, our friends, our pets, our spiritual families, as a cruel destiny has always and continues to bring intense events into our lives. The border between the U.S. and Mexico does not to be this way—it doesn’t have to be the line between life and death. For now, however, it is our shared reality. Whether we are facing injustice or triumph, it is our love for one another that endures. We are, like the sun and the wind that shape our desert, dynamic, powerful, and eternal.
We will not be moved.
Addendum: today I added the 23rd heart, in purple, to memorialize the death of Guillermo “Memo” Garcia, hospitalized since the shooting, who died in April of this year.