At second anniversary of daughter’s unsolved killing, Victoria Barrios mural affords hope – Orange County Register
Just a stone’s throw away from where Victoria Barrios was killed in Santa Ana, her mother, Eva, stood surrounded on Saturday, Aug. 28, by dozens of artists, musicians, community members and politicians for the unveiling of a mural remembering the 18- year old.
On Monday, the second anniversary of the day Victoria Barrios died in a still-unsolved drive-by shooting, Eva Barrios took the day off from work like she does the 30th of every month. She stays in her room on those days and unplugs from social media.
She sits with the memories of her kind-hearted, outgoing, vivacious daughter, she said, and remembers all the things the world is going to miss. She’ll “have a good cry.”
“It’s my time with my baby,” Barrios said. “I let myself break down and let it out because I need to.”
All the other days are reserved for staying strong for her family, including older daughter, Valerie, 25.
Police officials have said they think the shooting, in which a 17-year-old boy was also seriously wounded, was gang-related. They believe someone else was the target, neither of the teens had any gang ties. Saturday they renewed their request for anyone with information to contact the department.
Detectives have assured Barrios the investigation into the shooting has not gone cold and it’s a matter of “when,” not “if,” the case will be solved, she said.
Barrios said she collects words that remind her of her daughter: old soul, loyal, beautiful smile and wonderful laugh. She hopes, she said, to one day string them together eloquently for a victim impact statement in court if there is a conviction.
In the meantime, Saturday’s mural unveiling was a reminder that despite the emptiness and feeling like the “walking dead,” there are still good people in the world. “I need to focus on that,” Barrios said. “The anger can consume you.”
A billboard with a smiling Victoria Barrios wearing a blue graduation cap and gown looking for information about the shooting stopped Johnathan Ryan Hernandez in his tracks. (It’s part of a campaign started by the family with eight around the county and plans for one in Carson and one in West Covina. A cash reward is now up to $60,000.)
Hernandez, now a Santa Ana city councilman, said he grew up on Raitt Street in the Artesia Pilar neighborhood where violence is a part of life. Still, the image haunted him.
“I thought, ‘People are shooting at little girls now? Why are people not in an uproar?,’” said Hernandez, then the father of a 9-year-old girl. “Why is there no conversation about this?
“Our city and elected officials don’t want to talk about it,” he said. “But it will continue to happen.”
Earlier this year, Hernandez ran into a friend, Felipe Guerrero, at a community event where the Barrios family had a booth still looking for information, only to discover that Guerrero is Victoria Barrios’ grandfather. The encounter inspired him to organize the mural project.
Santa Ana artist Fernando Olivares was enlisted to create something that would remind people, “Victoria was taken, not only from her family, but from the community,” Hernandez said.
Hernandez likes to quote the late rapper, Tupac Shakur, referring to Barrios and his city as “roses through the concrete,” because society often overlooks and dismisses beauty found in urban poverty, he said.
Olivares said he immersed himself into Victoria’s life, studying family pictures and learning phrases she used, in designing the mural. Painting it, he worked into the night for seven days.
On Saturday, Olivares struggled against the breeze to keep his mural masked in blue tarp before the official unveiling.
Eva Barrios said the impatience of the weather fit her daughter, who hated waiting and being in the heat. “Victoria didn’t like a calm environment,” she said.
As the 1962 song, “Oh, my Angel” played, Olivares, Santa Ana Mayor Vicente Sarmiento and Councilman Hernandez revealed the mural of that same smiling Victoria Barrios from the billboards, this time with a bright yellow sun in the background and 18 pink roses anchoring the bottom.
“Everything in the painting has meaning,” said Eva Barrios, who worked with the artist. “I used to sing, ‘You are my Sunshine,’ when they were little. And the roses represent the age when she died.”
Olivares also inserted hidden symbols and messages, including a black crown for “Queen Victoria” and 12:12 for the time she died. That Shakur quote is written in script: “Long live the rose that grew from the concrete when no one else even cared.”
Olivares also used a quote from a childhood friend’s father who recently died:
“A moment of rage can equal a thousand years of pain.”