San Antonio memorial honors victims of deadly human trafficking incident

August 8, 2022

Ryan Witkowski


The city of San Antonio is considering a permanent memorial to honor the 53 migrants who died during 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 from Honduras, Mexico and Guatemala are placed around the memorial. The three flags represent the home countries of the victims.

Adriana Rocha Garcia, district 4 city councilwoman, is helping to lead the charge for the permanent monument. The councilwoman said that members of the community came together to honor the victims within days of the incident.

“It happened organically … with contributions from everybody,” Rocha Garcia told Land Line. “People bring flowers. People bring teddy bears. Someone hung flags. It’s literally a collection of the community’s compassion.”

Officials with Homeland Security have called the case the most deadly human smuggling incident on U.S. soil. According to 2021 data from the U.S. Census Bureau, 64.7% of San Antonio’s population is Hispanic or Latino. For many of the city’s residents, Rocha Garcia said the crime hit close to home.

“A lot of our community members have had experiences themselves or family members that kind of took the same journey to get to the United States. Or they know someone who did,” she said. “And so it’s very impactful because immediately they think, ‘that could have been me’ or ‘that could be a family member.’”

In addition to individual support from the community, the councilwoman said that several companies have stepped up to support the memorial, donating building materials and solar-powered lighting.

Furthermore, Rocha Garcia said the city is already working with stakeholders for permission to build the memorial on the site where the tragedy occurred. As for the funding for the memorial, the city is looking to partner with nonprofit groups and philanthropists to help fund the permanent site.

“I’ve had a couple of private companies already say that they’re interested in helping support a permanent memorial,” Rocha Garcia told News4 in San Antonino. “Which is reassuring that the extended community wants to do this as well.”

Rocha Garcia told Land Line she anticipates the planning phase for the project to begin this fall. She says the city will seek public input for the project, as well as the input of groups working to address human trafficking. The councilwoman said she doesn’t anticipate the project gaining real traction until early next year.

In the meanwhile, the city will continue to let the temporary memorial stand. However, Rocha Garcia admitted she fears the first big storm could bring it all crumbling down. The councilwoman says it’s 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 that we consider it hallowed ground,” she said. “These people died coming to the United States for a better life. There’s not one of us already living in the United States that doesn’t want that – doesn’t want a better life for our families. So I have invited everybody, the whole community, to come out and realize how lucky they are that they didn’t have to make this journey and potentially lose their lives. Because they’re fortunate to be living in the United States and have the opportunity to get their families ahead without having to sacrifice their lives.”

Charges have been filed against two men, Christian Martinez and Homero Zamorano Jr., in connection to the deadly incident. On Aug. 5, Martinez entered a plea of not guilty. If convicted, both men could face life in prison or the death penalty. LL