West Side altar honors 53 migrants who died in tractor-trailer

Altar opens each night at 6 p.m.

Nearly four months after 53 migrants died in a human smuggling attempt on Quintana Road, a local woman is honoring their memories through an altar.

SAN ANTONIO – Nearly four months after 53 migrants died in a human-smuggling attempt on Quintana Road, a local woman is honoring their memories through an altar.

“This is more than just an altar for me. This is the way I’m healing,” said SandraGrace Martínez, a mental health therapist and artist. Since June 27, Martínez has helped protect and gather the items of migrants left scattered where the tractor-trailer was discovered.

“I did not throw anything away. I was very, I’ve been very protective of the place,” she said.

Dusty hats and shoes and medical equipment used at the scene have been carefully placed in bags to protect and preserve the stories. They are now displayed on the altar that is set up in the front yard of Casa Azul at the corner of Buena Vista and Las Moras Street.

“They’re witnessing evidence, really, is what it comes down to,” Martínez said.

A West Side woman is honoring the 53 migrants killed in a human-smuggling incident with an altar. (Copyright 2022 by KSAT - All rights reserved.)

The altar also memorializes the victims of the shootings in Uvalde and Buffalo, New York, through handmade wooden crosses.

Martínez hopes the altar also serves as a space of healing for those who visit.

“As a therapist, this is my way of coping and grieving, and I hope that the community is able to do the same,” Martínez said.

Martínez said she is also in communication with the city to advocate for a permanent memorial to honor the 53 migrants.

In a statement to KSAT 12, District 4 Councilwoman Dr. Adriana Rocha García said they are still working on a plan.

“Discussions regarding the proposed memorial in honor of the 53 migrants who died on Quintana Road are ongoing, across various departments, and we will be including multiple stakeholders once we have more information,” she said. “There are also several details that will need to be reviewed and considered with community input. This will largely be a community-driven effort and we hope that it supports rather than supplants the work already done by numerous community members.”

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About the Authors:

Alicia Barrera is a KSAT 12 News reporter and anchor. She is also a co-host of the streaming show KSAT News Now. Alicia is a first-generation Mexican-American, fluent in both Spanish and English with a bachelor's degree from Our Lady of the Lake University. She enjoys reading books, traveling solo across Mexico and spending time with family.

William Caldera has been at KSAT since 2003. He covers a wide range of stories including breaking news, weather, general assignments and sports.