EL PASO — Just over a month after the mass shooting in which Latinos were specifically targeted, the city of El Paso is focused on healing and building solidarity against racism. An array of freshly painted murals, car stickers, and banners hanging from businesses across the city all proclaim, “El Paso Strong.” And on September 7, organizations and local activists came together for El Paso Firme, an event organizers described as “a day of action against white supremacy.” Throughout the day, people from across the Southwest and Latin America converged at Ascarate Park for a rally and concert affirming that El Paso is united in light of the recent attack.
Following a morning procession and community meeting downtown, a crowd estimated in the hundreds regrouped in the late afternoon with organizations like RAICES and Border Network for Human Rights to hear an international fusion of sounds and listen to testimonies from refugees, victims of Border Patrol abuses, and survivors of the August 3 tragedy.
“There’s people here from Dallas, Phoenix, Austin, San Antonio, Houston, Las Cruces, Ciudad Juárez, and I just want to be here in solidarity to stand up against hate in all of its forms,” Julio Acosta of Faith in Texas from Dallas told Latino USA.
While a large part of audience was there to experience the psychedelic pop of the headliner Cuco (his set began at 11 p.m.), most of the crowd appeared attentive and supportive of the testimonials and calls to action from organizers throughout the evening. Solidarity was as much of a draw as the music itself, with the U.S.-Mexico border wall and neighboring Ciudad Juárez within view.
Wearing a “Vote yes for the DREAM Act” shirt, Esmeraldo Pineda, who came from San Antonio, talked about looking at the roots of this ongoing violence. “When somebody goes out of his way [600 miles] for the sole purpose to kill brown people, Mexicans, there’s something terribly wrong with the system that’s coming out from the White House,” Pineda told Latino USA.
Voting was one action mentioned during the day, and people could register to vote so on-site. One of the registrars, Sue Dowsett, an event volunteer who lives in El Paso, said, “I’m proud of this city and I think it’s done a remarkable job just where we’re located and how well we get along with everybody across the border and thousands of people that come over to shop or to work [here] and vice versa.”
Organizer Palmira Figueroa from Seattle said the unity between all of the organizations was something that stood out to her about the event.
“Today has been really amazing especially because this was created by a lot of grassroots organizers, most of them Latinos, that have a lot of love for the people,” Figueroa said. “They’re doing this because if this happens in our house, we would expect the same, that all the people will come and join with their hearts and open souls to heal. And so this is important to me because it heals, music and art and getting together as a community is what gives me inspiration.”
Beginning with the magnetic acoustic sounds of San Diego-area sisters Dueto Dos Rosas to the sonically expansive set from La Santa Cecilia that kicked off with their spoken word-driven single, “Winning,” to Ana Tijoux’s sharp down-tempo hip-hop and Latin pop, there was no shortage of inspiring performances.
Cuco closed out the night, bringing to it his melancholic chill vibes with songs like “Summertime Hightime.”
While some musicians addressed the call to action more than others, Miguel “Oso” Ramírez from La Santa Cecilia summed up the event when he stood up and said, “We hope that all the people and victims of El Paso realize that we’re all here together for them, we’re all here strong together for them and we’re present together for them and their memory is very alive in all of us and that we’re going to carry this spirit of justice and see this through together.”