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Deadly human smuggling incident in San Antonio inspires mural honoring migrants' hopes

Artist rendering of completed mural
Courtesy Luminaria
Artist rendering of completed mural

A tragic human smuggling event has inspired a new mural with a message of hope at Mission County Park.

Listeners may recall how they first heard one of the decade’s darker stories, as reported by NPR. “We begin with news out of Texas. At least 46 people have been found dead after being trapped in a tractor-trailer in San Antonio,” NPR’s Rachel Martin said. The news got worse as the death toll soon climbed to 53.

Precinct 1 County Commissioner Rebeca Clay-Flores was at Mission Park on Friday to unveil a mural honoring the people lost in that tragedy. “It's important for me to have a memorial in their memory so that we don't forget, and that we realize that we have a responsibility,” she said.

Luminaria’s Yadhira Lozano provided artists Mauro de la Tierra, Adrian De La Cruz, and Andrea Rivas to work on the piece, which should be finished before mid-February.

Mauro de la Tierra, Yadhira Lozano, Rebecca Clay Flores, Adrian de la Cruz, Andrea Rivas
Jack Morgan
Mauro de la Tierra, Yadhira Lozano, Rebeca Clay Flores, Adrian de la Cruz, Andrea Rivas

The mural doesn’t show a trailer, but rather, people on a journey together. It also features monarch butterflies. One of the artists, Mauro de la Tierra said they’re a metaphor for the immigrant migration.

“The monarchs represent how immigration is a natural process in nature. So they're kind of a symbol of hope and beauty,” he explained.

Lozano said this kind of art installation keeps art on the front burner of an economy that works for tourists and locals alike.

“Being able to pay artists equitable wages for their work can only happen with the investment of government, corporations, foundations and art lovers like you having the ability to create a budget to pay for the paint and pay the artists and keep our Bexar County economy thriving is just such a wonderful thing for all of us,” she said.

Clay-Flores said the concept of the mural found a way to honor the 53 people without specifically mentioning them. It instead honors their life-threatening struggle simply to get to the United States.

“Butterflies are a representation of sometimes being locked in a cocoon and thinking that your life is over and there's no future,” she said. “Not knowing that God has a better plan and that you will fly. And it's also about having, hope in life in the future.”

Correction: A previous version of this story provided the incorrect title for Rebeca Clay-Flores. She is Bexar County commissioner for Precinct 1.

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Jack Morgan can be reached at jack@tpr.org and on Twitter at @JackMorganii