AUSTIN, Texas - A mural to honor U.S. Army Spc. Vanessa Guillen stands tall in southeast Austin.
The young Houston native’s story took over headlines for two months as Guillen's family fought for answers in their daughter’s disappearance from the base, sparking statewide protests and a demand for transparency from the U.S. military.
Guillen's remains were found on June 30th and the gruesome details of civilian suspect Cecily Aguilar’s confession were released on July 2nd.
Filiberto Mendieta began working on the mural with help from artist Arturo Silva over the weekend with the goal to spread awareness and keep Guillen’s story alive.
“My parents were both from Mexico so we all see ourselves in her just for the fact that our parents came here to give us a better opportunity in life,” said Mendieta. “It’s just sad that it happened and her family deserves justice and answers.“
In Spanish, the mural reads “Justicia para Vanessa Guillen” or Justice for Vanessa Guillen.
Monica Maldonado helped organize the mural and focused on selecting Latino artists and finding the right location in the Dove Springs neighborhood at the Texaco off of South Pleasant Valley and East William Cannon Drive.
“It was really, really important to have the mural here. It is a community that is predominately brown and black,” said Maldonado. “I have a daughter who is 23 years old and I could hardly watch the video of her mother pleading and begging for her daughter to be found. And it was so extremely heartbreaking. I really felt that it was important to put a mural to honor her and to give people a space to come pay their respects.”
Families stopped by throughout the day to bring flowers and pray. The Diaz family brought candles. Aimee Diaz said they see Vanessa Guillen in each and every one of us, a young woman, a soldier, and someone’s daughter.
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“We just wanted to show our respects because she joined the military to fight for our country and we believe that she did not deserve this,” said Diaz. “We want justice for her and we want to be her voice now that she is no longer here.”
Maldanado is working on a second mural for Vanessa Guillen with the Latinx Collective. However, they are still looking for the right place to showcase the piece of art. For more information on how to donate or how you can contribute, click here.