EL PASO, Texas—Patricia Oliver was in Mexico but her mind turned back to Parkland, Florida, when she heard there had been another mass shooting in America.
Patricia and her husband Manuel lost their son Joaquin during the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in February 2018. They arrived in El Paso this weekend from Florida to dedicate a mural with their son’s image on it, to be unveiled Sunday on what would have been his 19th birthday.
The Olivers, who were originally from Venezuela, were speaking to Venezuelan asylum seekers in Ciudad Juarez on Saturday when Patricia’s phone exploded with messages about the massacre just across the border in El Paso.
“I’ve watched so many mass shootings since then, sadly but true, and I don't know why, but this brought me again to that moment. All the way,” she said.
They founded ChangeTheRef, an organization that speaks out against violence through the power of art, and began traveling the country.
“How are we going to stop this? We've been on the road since April of last year, we didn't know what to do, we decided to do something to fight against gun violence. It's very frustrating.”
The Trump administration’s former policy of separating parents and children spurred the Olivers to speak out about how migrants are treated.
In El Paso, the Olivers arranged for a mural to be dedicated at Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center, a nonprofit law center for immigrants. The mural itself features a portrait of Joaquin and his mother with the words “separating me from my mom was not a good idea… now you have to deal with her.”
"Joaquin loved kids," Patricia said.
Presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke, who represented El Paso in Congress, was expected to speak at the unveiling of the mural on Sunday night.