‘They were human beings’: City plans to unveil memorial on Quintana Road honoring the 53 lost lives

A rosary service is planned for June 29 at the site when the memorial is finished

SAN ANTONIO – 53 crosses line Quintana Road, honoring the 53 migrants who died in the back of a tractor-trailer in 2022.

Several times a week, Angelita Olvera makes sure it’s cleaned up.

“I love them,” Olvera said.

Nearly two years later, Olvera still can’t wrap her head around how someone could abandon so many people.

“How could they have not given them water, air conditioning, or something in that 18-wheeler?” Olvera said.

Olvera didn’t know a single soul who died in what authorities called a “horrific human tragedy,” yet she doesn’t want anyone to forget them.

“They were human beings,” Olvera said.

The crosses are a place for families to grieve and connect with their loved ones.

“Their loved one literally gave up their lives probably trying to help them out,” said District 4 Councilwoman Adriana Rocha Garcia.

Rocha Garcia says a concrete slab next to the crosses will become a permanent memorial.

“We figured that this memorial might be an opportunity for them to come to pray, and maybe get a tiny bit of closure, even figuring out exactly where their loved one was when they took their final breath,” she said.

53 blocks of limestone will represent the 53 lives lost. Each block’s height will correspond to a victim’s.

“Our youngest victim was 13 years old, so there will be a boulder that’s 13 inches long,” Rocha Garcia explained.

Rocha Garcia said the memorial will also have trees, and a plaque with the names of all the migrants with their country of origin.

The crosses will stay as long as possible, according to Rocha Garcia.

“I’m happy that that’s going to be done here because maybe one day we can’t come and fix our crosses, but there will be something down there that is permanent,” said Olvera.

Another permanent change Olvera hopes to see is to current immigration policies.

“Nothing has been done for the immigrants,” Olvera said. “But all we have to do is keep praying that these politicians open their eyes and their hearts.”

Olvera said she’ll continue to clean up around the crosses and pray.

“These were 53 souls that were lost here,” Olvera said, looking at the crosses.

53 crosses, 53 names, and a city promising to honor them forever.

“It’s showing that compassion and offering our prayers, and thoughts for those who were lost here,” said Rocha Garcia.

Rocha Garcia said the memorial will be finished by June 29. A rosary service will be held there at 5 p.m.

About the Authors

Daniela Ibarra joined the KSAT News team in July 2023. This isn’t her first time in the KSAT newsroom– the San Antonio native spent the summer of 2017 as an intern. Daniela is a proud Mean Green alum, earning her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of North Texas.

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