San Antonio

Woman admits to setting fire to monument built after migrant tragedy, officials say

Saldana says the monument ‘was very personal’ to the City of San Antonio.

SAN ANTONIO — The video above was aired again in October 2022. 

One girl has been arrested after a monument devoted to migrant deaths was set on fire Tuesday morning on the far southwest-side, in accordance to San Antonio Arson Bureau Lieutenant Noe Saldana. 

The girl has been recognized by officials as 44-year-old, Estela Banda. 

Saldana says firefighters had been referred to as to the scene on the 9500 block of Quintana Road for an unauthorized burn round 6 a.m.

The fire was extinguished and arson investigators had been referred to as out to the scene. 

Officials say in the course of the investigation an arrest warrant was obtained for Banda and introduced in for an announcement the place she admitted to setting fire and destroying the monument. 

Banda advised arson investigators that she was ‘compelled by the Holy Spirit’ and that her reasoning for the fire was doing God’s work, in accordance to Saldana. 

Saldana says the monument ‘was very personal’ to the City of San Antonio.

“This is a very important arrest for our city, and for our division and fire department because of the nature of the heinous crime that was committed earlier this year,” Saldana says.

Banda was arrested and charged with arson which is a felony.

As investigators introduced Banda’s arrest, Good Samaritans had been arduous at work rebuilding the memorial.

“We got there early, and found out someone set the memorial on fire,” mentioned Diego Armando Patraca Rueda, who’s visiting San Antonio from Mexico.

Rueda got here to the memorial off Quintana Road Wednesday morning along with his cousin who visits the positioning continuously to depart water, ice and fruit for guests.

“It’s a way for us to lay these souls to rest, of those who died,” defined Rueda. “So they can have eternal rest and people can come and pay their respects.”

When Rueda and his cousin arrived on the memorial, they discovered the pulpit and several other crosses burned. Rueda’s cousin started making calls.

“My cousin called people he knows who work at Home Depot to get the wood,” mentioned Rueda. “Then he called a friend who works at a construction site to bring the other tools needed to build the crosses.”

When requested if Rueda and his cousin knew any of the victims, he mentioned no. They needed to assist, he mentioned, as a result of it was the precise factor to do.

“In Mexico, it’s a custom for us to support others. We don’t have much, but what we do have, we give to others,” he defined. “At the end of the day, we’re all the same. We’re all human.”

By 4 p.m. Wednesday, the brand new crosses had been full.

“It speaks volumes to this effort that’s been grassroots since the very beginning,” mentioned Sandragrace Martinez, curator and organizer for the memorial.

Martinez burst into tears when she received her first view of the injury up-close.

She believes the suspect threw mementos from the memorial into the pulpit earlier than setting it on fire.

Martinez referred to as migrants households to share the heartbreaking information.

“It is unfortunately, for all of us, something that maybe had to happen. It’s really hard for me to say those words,” mentioned Martinez. “So we can get more support from the city out here.”

Since the memorial’s creation, Martinez says funding for rosaries, birthday celebrations and provides has come from nationwide organizations. Donors, like Rueda’s cousin, may also drop off meals and water.

District 4 Councilwoman, Dr. Adriana Rocha Garcia, says she’d like to deal with getting a everlasting memorial for the 53 migrants. The subsequent step, she says, is elevating funds to build it.

In the meantime, to shield the makeshift memorial and the individuals who go to, Rocha Garcia is open to offering safety.

“I think this is a good opportunity to say we need some additional reinforcements, so I definitely think this is important to consider,” she mentioned.

Wednesday afternoon, a number of artwork items which lined the fence of the memorial had been taken off the positioning. Martinez says the work had a number of holes, which started showing a few weeks in the past.

The work had been moved to Casa Azul off Buena Vista to be a part of a bigger artwork set up about immigration.

The monument was created after 53 migrants died in a tractor-trailer again in June 2022 and is taken into account the deadliest migrant smuggling occasion in U.S. historical past. 

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