Volunteers honoring victims found inside trailer on Southwest Side with memorial

The tragedy is the deadliest human smuggling attempt in US history

SAN ANTONIO – It’s been one week since 53 migrants died on the city’s Southwest Side after being discovered in a tractor-trailer, and a growing memorial is honoring their lives with the names of victims added to the display.

Several tents are set up in the area with free water and Gatorade, as well as a place to make donations for supplies.

“These are our people, our community. My parents are immigrants, and I’m first-generation American, and so this is the best I can do,” said Sandragrace Martinez.

She calls the spot along Quintana Road ground zero. The area looks starkly different than it did just one week ago.

“While others are putting walls up between two nations, I’m putting a wall up of crucifixes for the people that come here and sacrifice to have a better life,” Martinez said.

Martinez and other volunteers came here on their own, making it their mission to honor the lives of the people who died in the back of the 18-wheeler.

“These have been confirmed that they have passed. They’re cousins from Guatemala. This is a matrimony and their brother. They’ve been confirmed as well from Guatemala. And these two are friends,” Martinez said, referring to the people identified in the memorial.

The Bexar County Medical Examiner’s Office conclusively identified 19 victims, and 30 others have been potentially identified. Four other victims are still unidentified.

Martinez has had the opportunity to learn their stories through their families who have come to San Antonio to grieve as the memorial site is seen as their final resting place.

“Adela is over there. She’s 29. I met her mother, Gloria, and Gloria came from Los Angeles. So I know these people’s stories. They’re deep,” Martinez said.

Martinez showed a KSAT crew a Guatemalan passport found on the road. It was dirty, and she’s unsure if it was from last Monday’s tragedy. Martinez read us the name inside: “Victor Martin Ramirez Orozco --Guatemala.”

Martinez has vowed not to let him or any other names painted on the crosses be forgotten. She’s working on a memorial book for the victims that she can share with their families.

The Medical Examiner’s Office is expected to share an update on Tuesday.

About the Authors:

Leigh Waldman is a news reporter at KSAT 12. She joined the station in 2021. Leigh comes to San Antonio from the Midwest after spending time at a station in Omaha, NE. After two winters there, she knew it was time to come home to Texas. When Leigh is not at work, she enjoys eating, playing with her dogs and spending time with family.

Adam Barraza is a photojournalist at KSAT 12 and an El Paso native. He interned at KVIA, the local ABC affiliate, while still in high school. He then moved to San Antonio and, after earning a degree from San Antonio College and the University of the Incarnate Word, started working in news. He’s also a diehard Dodgers fan and an avid sneakerhead.