In El Paso, the Creative Community Helps with Healing

In El Paso, the Creative Community Helps with Healing (Two grievers console each other in front of the makeshift memorial at the Walmart by Cielo Vista Mall in El Paso, TX. (Photo: Antonio Villaseñor-Baca/YR Media.) )

El Paso, TexasAll this week, YR Media has been reporting from El Paso on the aftermath of the mass shooting there that left 22 dead and dozens injured. Again and again, culture and creativity have emerged as key sources of the city's resilience.

El Paso businesses, organizers and residents are providing relief and aid to the victims and their families, consoling one another as the nation looks on. Funeral homes offer free services to victims. Banks and cell phone companies supply water and snacks at the memorial outside the Walmart where the shooting took place. Red Lobster employees even took biscuits to mourners. 

The dance groups that performed at vigils throughout the city set the stage for others in the creative community to help El Paso move forward.

The El Paso Plaza Classic Film Festival

El Paso Plaza Classic Film Festival is a 10-day festival that bills itself as the largest of its kind. The shooting took place on the third day of the festival, just as viewers were settling in to watch "Shrek." 

A jar for donations is next to a long sheet of paper where people can write a message to the victims of the Walmart shooting. This set up is located inside the Plaza Theatre in EL Paso, TX. (Photo: Antonio Villaseñor-Baca/ YR Media)

While many businesses closed their doors for the day to participate in relief efforts, the film festival resisted canceling because “part of it, is to not let this person dictate to us,” said Doug Pullen, program director at the El Paso Community Foundation, which organizes the festival. “I think of the U2 line, ‘Don’t let the bastards get you down,’ and in this case, it’s don’t let the bastard get you down,” said Pullen. Also, Pullen believes that entertainment can be a good diversion. “We felt people would need some kind of solace, would need some kind of comfort, a safe place.” 

The festival also set up a stand for people to write messages on a long sheet of paper. “The idea, we’re hoping, is to showcase the [messages written] to the public so the people directly affected by the shooting can see there are people who support them,” Pullen said.

West Texas Tattoos

El Paso has plenty of tattoo shops, and many are offering deals on ink to raise money for the victims of the shooting. One of these shops is West Texas Tattoo. This Friday the shop will offer $60 palm-sized El Paso-themed tattoos, with proceeds going to victims.

“The owners of the shop wanted to help out the community,” said Stevie Mclean, shop manager at West Texas Tattoo. “People aren’t being selfish. It’s surprising and it’s not at the same time. Everyone just came together.”

Proper Print Shop

It is difficult to go anywhere in El Paso without seeing a shirt made by Proper Print Shop. This is where the famous “No Mames Way” and the Chihuahua calavera (skull) t-shirts are made. People come to Proper Print Shop not just because of how soft their shirts are but also because of how vibrantly they show the El Paso culture on the tees. 

The t-shirt shop is among several in the city that are selling custom products like their “El Paso Strong” shirt, to support the community of El Paso. Proper Print Shop is donating the proceeds to the El Paso Community Foundation. 

The shop released the t-shirts on Monday and reports that they've sold out each day so far. “We’re just raising money. The whole point is to raise money for the foundation,” said Alan Hudson, part-owner of Proper Print Shop. “We’ve never been this busy. Thousands of people are coming through every day, in person. And thousands of orders online,” said Hudson. The number of sales has surpassed their normal workload.

“We’re just trying to do what we can. And what we do is shirts,” said Hudson. 

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