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Local artist coalition to honor Vanessa Guillen with community mural

“It’s a memorial, que Vanessa nunca muera [that Vanessa never dies],” said Montoya.
Credit: Huitaca Murals

DALLAS — The Huitaca Murals, a coalition of artists, will honor Vanessa Guillen by painting a mural outside of the Levine’s wall on West Jefferson Boulevard. Artists will begin work on April 5.

Guillen was last seen on April 22, 2020 in a Fort Hood parking lot. Her remains were discovered on June 30, 2020.

RELATED: Army fires, suspends 14 Fort Hood soldiers over handling of sexual violence following Vanessa Guillen's death

Natalia Montoya of Huitaca Murals sees a bit of her own story in Guillen. The 41-year-old is a first-generation American who joined the military to support her family. She too was a victim of harassment and violence while in the military.

“I was finally able to get a hold of the right officer and he stood up for me,” said Montoya. 

The military veteran says that is not the case for everyone, and for many, it depends on the chain of command.

Huitaca Murals, which serves Dallas communities through art, hopes the mural will contribute to raising awareness of Guillen’s legacy and the I Am Vanessa Guillen Act H.R. 8270.

The I Am Vanessa Guillen Act would enable active duty service members to file sexual harassment and assault claims to a third-party agency instead of the chain of command.  

RELATED: Vanessa Guillen's family continues to push for 'I Am Vanessa Guillen' Act to help sexual harassment and assault survivors in Army

“We at Huitaca Murals are eternally grateful that we can provide creativity to educate and uplift our communities,” said Jocelyne Garcia Ortiz.

Montoya brought the idea to Garcia Ortiz to create the mural in Dallas.

“It’s a memorial, que Vanessa nunca muera [that Vanessa never dies],” said Montoya, “it’s important for people not to forget and that we have strength in numbers if we come together, we can make real change.”

Garcia Ortiz has sketched out the mural, which will have Guillen as the focal point dressed in her military uniform. She will be flanked on one side by the American flag and the Mexican flag on the other in a tribute to her first-generation heritage.

“I feel like if they’re an immigrant or first-generation, they’re more vulnerable to be mistreated or a victim of sexual harassment,” said Montoya.

Garcia Ortiz says the mural honors Guillen and illustrates the impact immigrants have on society and their journey.

RELATED: Mother of Fort Hood Soldier Gregory Morales hopes for changes in the Army after new policy announced for missing soldiers

The bottom of the mural features silhouettes of individuals walking across the border, and on the other side, a judicial building with silhouettes holding signs that spell H-O-M-E. A butterfly will represent migration and strength.

The military veteran, Montoya, says many immigrants see the military as an opportunity to serve this country and obtain a better life. 

The coalition has started a GoFundMe to obtain funds for materials. Any additional funds raised will be given to the Guillen family.

Volunteers will also be welcomed to join after initial preparation work is done on the wall.

Organizers will also present letters to local officials to proclaim April 22 as Vanessa Guillen Day.

The mural is anticipated to be completed by April 17, where a candlelight vigil will be held for the one-year-anniversary of Vanessa Guillen’s death.