Honoring the lives lost on Quintana Road nearly one year ago

“I still wonder if this is true. If this is a dream,” a mother of three of the migrants said.

SAN ANTONIO – It’s been nearly a year since 53 migrants died in the back of a tractor-trailer on San Antonio’s Southwest Side.

Their lives have been honored in a makeshift memorial.

“I look at the sky and I wonder where are they? Do they see me?” Karen Caballero said through a translator.

For almost a year, Caballero has mourned her sons, 18-year-old Fernando, 23-year-old Alejandro, and his wife, 25-year-old Margie.

The trio was among the 53 migrants who died last summer in the back of a tractor-trailer on Quintana Road.

Caballero spoke with us over the phone but wasn’t comfortable showing her face as she is seeking asylum in another country.

“I see that the anniversary date of his death is approaching. I see broken dreams,” Caballero said.

Over the past 12 months, Caballero has shared her children’s stories, dreams, and plans for a new life with Sandragrace Martinez.

“Young individuals that are professionals having engineering degrees, you know, in graphic design,” Martinez said.

Martinez has made it her mission to learn about all 53 lives lost and write about them in a book, sharing their stories with their families.

“We also have this greater understanding, hopefully through this book, that these were human beings that lost their lives,” Martinez said.

The crosses on the books and along Quintana Road symbolize the lives ended by the oppressive heat and desperation for a new life.

The tragedy fell within city councilwoman Adriana Rocha Garcia’s district, where she said plans are in the works for a permanent memorial.

“The 53 markers is the idea right now with those names and country of origin would be the way to commemorate that. Possibly a plaque as well,” Rocha Garcia said.

Martinez is still looking for a publisher for her book. She said the proceeds will go toward the memorial and legal funds to help migrants and their families.

On June 25th, there is a rosary planned to honor the 53 lives lost.

It’ll be held at 3 p.m. near the 9600 block of Quintana Road, where the migrants were found in the 18-wheeler.

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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.

Stephania Jimenez is an anchor on The Nightbeat. She began her journalism career in 2006, after graduating from Syracuse University. She's anchored at NBC Philadelphia, KRIS in Corpus Christi, NBC Connecticut and KTSM in El Paso. Although born and raised in Brooklyn, Stephania considers Texas home. Stephania is bilingual! She speaks Spanish.