© 2021
background_fid.jpg
In touch with the world ... at home on the High Plains
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
HPPR News

Dallas Mourns Murdered Soldier Vanessa Guillén With Candles, Lowriders, Mariachi

Family, friends and hundreds of Dallasites laid out flowers and candles on Tuesday night outside city hall in honor of 20 year-old soldier Vanessa Guillén. 

The vigil started with men in lowriders roaring their cars, a local paletero handed out free popsicles and the group Mariachi Mexico USA singing the song “Hermoso Cariño” by Vicente Fernández, a song usually performed at funerals. 

KERA's Alejandra Martinez talks with friends of murdered soldier Vanessa Guillén at a Dallas vigil.

Then Carlos Quintanilla, a long-time Latino activist and president of Acción América, a Latino advocacy organization, stepped onto the stage and yelled out her name: Vanessa Guillén. He asked the Hispanic community to join him.

“¡Que se escuche la comunidad Latina! ¡Venessa Guillén!” he chanted. 

“No puedo evitarlo, y quiero gritarlo

Hermoso cariño que Dios ha mandado, nomás para mí.” pic.twitter.com/InACI2RSOm— Alejandra Martinez (@_martinez_ale) July 8, 2020

Guillén went missing from Fort Hood on April 22, and her body was found last week. Her brutal murder has led to vigils across Texas and calls for change. 

Two of Guillén’s high school friends who now live in Dallas spoke to the crowd. 

“She was always the person to be the first person on the field. She would be the first person to be running out of class and be out there doing her best,” Emily Grimaldo, a 22 year-old Houston native who played soccer with Guillén, said.

Grimaldo now lives in Dallas and goes to school here.

Aileen Teniente, 22, was Vanessa Guillén's friend and teammate.
Credit Keren Carrión / KERA News
/
Aileen Teniente, 22, was Vanessa Guillén's friend and teammate.

Alieen Teniente also spoke at the vigil. She said Guillén was the type of person who would go the extra mile for her friends.

“I knew she was the same for her team in the military. It's really sad that they didn’t treat her the same way,” Teniente said. 

These friends, along with the Guillén family, are demanding answers. Her family has said that Guillén was murdered by a soldier who’d been sexually harassing her, after being too scared to report it. 

“For me as a mom, I can’t even imagine seeing my daughter go through that, like her mom did,” said Jessica Castillo, a Dallasite who’s Mexican-Puerto Rican. “Her being in so much fear of speaking out.”

Castillo’s husband is an Army veteran. She has hopes her five-year-old daughter will also join, but wants the military to change how it deals with sexual harassment claims. 

Roxana Lucio, a Dallas art teacher, created a canvas of Guillén for the Fourth of July. Lucio said there wasn't any representation of Guillén in her neighborhood, so she wanted to do this for her.
Credit Keren Carrión / KERA News
/
Roxana Lucio, a Dallas art teacher, created a canvas of Guillén for the Fourth of July. Lucio said there wasn't any representation of Guillén in her neighborhood, so she wanted to do this for her.

“A lot of women and men feel ashamed they’ve been molested in the military,” Garland Army veteran Nataly Montoya said.

Montoya drove to Dallas to share her sexual assault experience at the vigil. 

“I was a pregnant soldier and I had an NCO (non-commissioned officer) who did things to me that no pregnant women should have to go through,” Montoya said.

After Guillén's disappearance, many people along with Montoya began to speak out on social media about their experiences with sexual harassment and violence in the military. Often times using the hashtag #IAmVanessa. 

Guillen's family is now pushing for legislation that would change the way the military handles these types of accusations.

Alejandra Martinez is a corps member with Report For America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.

Got a tip? Email Alejandra at amartinez@kera.org. You can follow her on Twitter @_martinez_ale.

KERA News is made possible through the generosity of our members. If you find this reporting valuable, consider making a tax-deductible gift today. Thank you.

Aileen Teniente and Emily Grimaldo, Vanessa Guillén's friends and teammates from high school, attend Tuesday's vigil.
Keren Carrión / KERA News
/
Aileen Teniente and Emily Grimaldo, Vanessa Guillén's friends and teammates from high school, attend Tuesday's vigil.
Many protesters and mourners brought their own posters and signs to show support for Guillén.
Alejandra Martinez / KERA News
/
Many protesters and mourners brought their own posters and signs to show support for Guillén.
People left candles as they arrived at the vigil.
Keren Carrión / KERA News
/
People left candles as they arrived at the vigil.
Ruth and Anthony Cobos, of Dallas, made their own masks for Tuesday's vigil.
Keren Carrión / KERA News
/
Ruth and Anthony Cobos, of Dallas, made their own masks for Tuesday's vigil.

Copyright 2020 KERA