IMPERIAL COUNTY, Calif.–“It was just hard. It was just hard to see our family torn apart in a moment of violence.”
Yulil Alonso-Garza remembers the moment her family’s life was shattered forever.
“Our life changed within seconds.”
Alonso-Garza paints her past…a picture of an all-American family.
But the Garza family wasn’t prepared for what happened the night of January 6th, 2013.
“We received a phone call from our daughter, frantic and crying. Couldn’t really speak, but just told us that her brother had been stabbed. I don’t think I ever got dressed so fast.”
Martin Alberto Garza, a 17-year-old Brawley Union High School football player, died after a presumed gang member murdered him at a party in El Centro.
The next day police found and arrested his suspected killer–19-year-old Martin Gabriel Andrade.
“Our son was so full of life. He loved to smile. I always saw him as a well-rounded kid. He wasn’t the most popular, but he made his way to get to know a lot of people.”
“We don’t have a stone on his grave. We figured we have something at home we can visit and have. We know that he’s here in the house still making his presence known.”
Garza’s death shocked the tight-knit Brawley community. It also brought to light to an on-going gang problem in Imperial County.
“If there wasn’t a problem, my son would still be alive.”
Only a few weeks after her son’s death, Alonso-Garza founded M.A.G.—Mothers and Men Against Gangs Coalition.
“I wanted to bring light into something very dark. The way we reacted was to initiate something that would raise awareness, initiate something that would leave a legacy, and initiate something that would save a life.”
Three years later M.A.G. has grown in size and power. The coalition celebrated a success on the third year anniversary in January when Brawley and Calexico declared January 6th Anti-Gang Awareness Day.
“I lived by this since I was a teenager, and it became real the day my son died. ‘God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference. I think back and I’m glad God gave me the courage to reach out to our community and make a difference. I understand I can’t change my son being dead, but I can change the outcome.”