Featured Poem: El Paso Massacre by Ray Gonzalez
EL PASO MASSACRE
I was born in El Paso in 1952
at Southwest General Hospital,
the original old building torn down
decades ago, a new hospital built
on the same site and now reported
to be one of the most haunted
buildings in El Paso, ghosts
and spirits seen there often.
Some of the first images on television
show people running out of The Wal Mart,
running toward the river nearby,
people running to the border a common site.
The shooter’s manifesto was reported
to use some of the same phrases as
Trump’s recent speeches.
Between the end of the Civil War in 1865,
and 1930, rough estimates claim at least
5,000 Mexicans shot or lynched by
Texas Rangers throughout the state.
In El Paso, the last record store
I shopped at, before moving away in 1978,
used to be next to the Wal Mart.
At that time, black metal, heavy metal,
and death metal were big as El Paso’s
answer to punk which never took off there.
They interviewed a Mexican grandmother
and grandfather who were shot in the store,
both alive and in the hospital, their grandchildren
surrounding their beds and reminding me that
El Paso was always a town of grandparents.
In 1519, Juan de Onate crossed El Paso del Norte
on horseback, leading his conquistadors north,
several horses drowning in the river, three of
the Spanish solders never returning from
the first expedition through the desert.
The shooter told police he came to town
to “kill as many Mexicans” as he could.
Killing Mexicans was almost a high school
cry among the football players who called me
“beaner, dumb Mexican, Spic, greaser, and Chuy.”
An off-duty soldier, stationed at Fort Bliss
in El Paso, saved the lives of several children
by leading them out of the Wal Mart,
even pulling out his personal Glock,
conceal and carry laws alive and well
in the state. If so, besides the cops,
where was everybody with their drawn guns?
The Texas Governor said
the mass shooting
was not “like Texas.”
Texas leads the nation in
mass killings each year.
On CNN, a young protester
holds up a sign.
“If I Die in a Mass Killing,
Drop my body at the White House.”
My sister’s house is three miles
from the Wal Mart where she and
my brother-in-law shop every Saturday.
He was playing golf that day in
the 100 degree heat, so they didn’t go.
Shrines, flowers, white crosses from
a Chicago man who devotes his life
to making wooden crosses for mass
killing victims all over the country,
tells CNN that he has made hundreds
since he started years ago.
I have been gone from El Paso
for 41 years.
The Texas War Cry will be changed from
“Remember The Alamo” to
“Remember the Wal Mart.”
The brown waters of the Rio Grande
keep flowing nearby.
Ray Gonzalez is the author of 16 books of poetry. He received a Witter Bynner Poetry Fellowship from The Library of Congress and a Lifetime Achievement Award from The Southwest Library Association. He is a native of El Paso and teaches at The University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.