Observed annually from September 15 to October 15, Latino Heritage Month is an opportunity to recognize and celebrate the histories, cultures, and contributions of Latino Americans. This Latino Heritage Month, we’re elevating the voices of Latino leaders advocating for safer communities.
On January 24, 2015, my son Alejandro (Alex) Rojas Garcia was brutally murdered, while he was in his junior year as a marketing major at Temple University in Philadelphia. He was shot 15 times by a now-convicted murderer facing life in prison.
When Alex died, I needed to channel my anger and find a way to face each new day. I’ve been an active advocate for a while now—in college, it was for housing and workers’ rights. I took up the role again as a way to seek justice and cope with my grief and devastating pain.
Alex is the reason I work for peace and justice. I have met so many mothers and heard about their children dying in the streets, killed without a second thought. These mothers are like sisters to me and I advocate for each and every one of them. It’s these stories from other victims and families that keep me moving forward every day.
That, and my family. They have always been supportive and Alex’s father, Wilfredo Rojas, has been heavily involved in our work as well.
We don’t talk enough about gun violence
I’ve been able to find a support system in my family, but that’s not true for every survivor. Especially in the Latino community, we’re not talking enough about gun violence. Each year, 3,600 Latinos die from gun violence in the US. Whenever I am sitting at the policy-making table, I bring up the numbers of Latinos affected by gun violence because these victims and their family members are suffering.
A huge part of my personal mission is to raise awareness within the Latino community and connect the community with the work that the Black community is doing on gun violence prevention.
It’s time for action.
I work on the City of Philadelphia’s Special Committee for Gun Violence Prevention, and I have heard so much testimony over the last few years. The time for talking is over, now it’s time for action. I’m hopeful that partnerships between local governments and state and federal law enforcement will help investigators close homicide cases and collect guns off the street.
Under my organization, the National Homicide Justice Alliance, we have started a national group of mothers across the country called MAMA – Madres Apoyando Madres de Asesinados. We have a Spanish language / bilingual meeting over Facetime every Wednesday evening.
Resources for Survivors of Gun Violence
The Everytown Survivor Network is a nationwide community of survivors working together to end gun violence.