When the Sun Shines in the Sun City


A shopping cart stands alone in the street of the original site, before the opening of the walmart filled with teddy bears and flowers after being moved away from puddles created by rainfall.

When the sun finally peaked out from behind the cloudy sky, the white crosses of the Walmart memorial gleamed- a result of the reflective puddles that were left behind from the rain. The many flowers that were spread across the ground, tied to the covered fence, and set in vases were blooming but wilted because of the wind.

Because of the morning weather, the memorial had been flooded. The ground, covered in rainwater, caused candles to topple over and signs to be faded out.

Louie Pacheco, a member of Bronson Security, watched over the corner of Sunmount Dr. and Edison Wy. His 12-hour shift, which consisted of overseeing women, children, and men from all over the country ended at noon.

“A lot of family members usually come up on the weekends and Sunday is when more people come by,” Pacheco says.

Alongside the curb behind the scene of the shooting, a tent once stood, occasionally covering shrine items that were placed underneath or covering nothing at all when they were moved. A single statue of the Virgin Mary used to stand with a few colorfully beaded rosaries draped around it. Two months later, the statue’s face was the only feature that could be seen beneath a heap of beads. Now, the beads are draped along a metal fence, the statue, nowhere in sight.

From the Hooters which overlooks the memorial from its windows, the green chain linked fence covered in a wide array of colorful art presented itself as a somber art gallery featuring poems, words, and grievances from people and places like Germany, Mexico, and even Switzerland.

A single page, darkened, wrinkled, weathered and taped to a pole reads: 
“August 3rd, 2019,

El Paso, my hometown, my childhood town, the place I am growing up in was hit with hatred un-positive vibes of someone who is taking lives of innocent people who hadn’t done any crime to anyone were taken so soon. Leaving us all fear, pain and having thanks to god some weren’t taken but grieving for others who were. El Paso, my hometown, let’s try to re-real from this torture of August 3, 2019. Pray over and over for the hurt and remember the one taking risk for others to survive. R.I.P. to the mother saving her child. R.I.P. for a person who tried to escape but risked it and got wounded. R.I.P. to everyone who was lost. #ElPasoStrong.”

One month later, the memorial has been removed and relocated to Ponder Park, the site of the memorial headed by Beto O’ Rourke and a mourning El Paso community.

What takes place of the street-wide memorial now is a sign that states the relocation of the signs, art, and flowers that once decorated the street behind the Walmart. At Ponder park, a single fence stands with just a few of the large signs, flags, and beads that decorated the street.

David Corral, 33 and employee of the Cielo Vista Walmart says, “(The memorial) is fine for now. It can’t really stay there (on Edison Way). Hooters is a business and Walmart is a business. I don’t mind them moving it.”

 Since its opening, the Walmart has placed new pedestrian gates inside of the store by the entrance that open and close as people walk through as well as placed more security throughout and around the building.

“It was surreal, it was crazy what happened and right where I worked,” Corral says.

The ‘Grand Candela’, being installed in the parking lot of the Walmart, will be a permanent memorial, inspired by the sea of candles at the original makeshift memorial that took over the entire block behind the super store.

In a report by KFOX 14, Assistant Director of El Paso’s Museum and Cultural Affairs Department Ben Fyffe says that items from the original memorial were cataloged and archived.

“There’s a number of ways that we want to be able to use these items to make sure this story is not forgotten, and the lives of these people continue to be celebrated,” Fyffe says. “Some of the things we have spoken about is the idea of exhibitions that could go at the El Paso Museum of History. This could potentially be one of the first exhibits of the new Mexican American cultural center when it opens in 2022.”

By Brandy Ruiz