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Chicago’s Gun Violence Victims Remembered At El Día De Los Muertos Memorial As Their Parents Vow To Seek Justice

"I miss my son every day, but I made a promise to him as he laid in that bed with no life," one mother said. "I told him I would be his voice until God took my life from me."

Families of Chicagoans lost to street violence held a vigil Saturday in Little Village.
Hillary Flores/Block Club Chicago
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LITTLE VILLAGE — Eustoquia Alvarez couldn’t celebrate her son’s 22nd birthday in October. 

Macedo’s dream was to buy a new car to have a better life with his 2-year-old daughter and wife, Alvarez said. He was working a food delivery job when he was fatally shot Sept. 28 while driving on the Stevenson Expressway near Chinatown.

So, instead of celebrating Macedo’s birthday month, Alvarez and other family members of slain Chicagoans gathered Saturday outside the Cook County Criminal Courthouse in Little Village. They demanded justice and commemorated victims of violence for El Día de los Muertos, a Mexican holiday honoring loved ones who have died.

“We ask for justice for all of our children,” Alvarez said. “We demand Chicago authorities support the families, because sometimes there’s no support for Latinos. … Our children don’t deserve to die.”

The memorial came at a particularly fraught time for Chicago: Gun violence has soared since the pandemic hit at the start of 2020. Just this year, more than 3,700 people have been shot, and at least 678 people have been murdered, according to police data.

Credit: Hillary Flores/Block Club Chicago
Family members of Erick Macedo stand in front of his ofrenda, which was decorated with conchas, Oreos, Snickers, photos, candles and a Spongebob figurine.

The city and state have made investments in anti-violence work — with Gov. JB Pritzker pledging $50 million to such groups on Monday — but people at the event said officials haven’t done enough to prevent violence and help families of victims.

Alvarez said officials don’t properly support communities of color after violence occurs, with many family members of victims not getting updates during investigations.

Nanette Luna, who was at the vigil, also lost her son to violence. Victor Felix Jr. was 16.

Felix was on his way to school when he was fatally shot in 2016. Luna said she wants answers about what happened — but she hasn’t gotten them after reaching out to police, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office and the Mayor’s Office.

“I have yet to get justice for my son,” Luna said. “The hurt and the pain every day never goes away, and it never gets any easier. … I miss my son every day, but I made a promise to him as he laid in that bed with no life. I told him I would be his voice until God took my life from me.

“Our kids deserve justice, and we will get it for them.”

At the vigil, photos of violence victims were pinned to white crosses with red roses and hearts outside the courthouse. Families created ofrendas, or altars, for their lost loved ones as parents supposed each other and shared their stories.

Cecilia Mannion, a victim advocate for Enlace Chicago and founder of Families Seeking Justice, said the more than 100 crosses at Saturday’s memorial represented just a small fraction of Chicagoans lost to gun violence. She said she hopes Saturday’s event showed families they’re not alone as they grieve.

“We do care about how they feel and what they’re going through,” Mannion said. “A lot of these individuals that were on these crosses … I was there from the beginning — from the morgue to the hospital, I was there with these families. I was involved with these families.” 

Credit: Hillary Flores/Block Club Chicago
Family members of Erick Macedo called for justice at a memorial Saturday.

Alexis Rodriguez, a street-based counselor for Enlace Chicago, said many communities hit hardest by violence lack resources. Community violence has been “normalized” in those areas — and officials don’t seem to be doing anything, she said.

“It’s not right. We shouldn’t have to live through these experiences,” Rodriguez said. “We shouldn’t have to have our loved ones passing away due to community violence.”

Monica Saavedra lost her son, Justin Reyes, to Chicago’s violence, as well. At Saturday’s vigil, she said she’ll never be able to fully heal.

“I am his voice. I am his mother,” Saavedra said. “That was my son; he was like my best friend. He was a loving son.

“I need my son, and I know I’m never going to see him again.”

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