Memorial dedicated to 53 human-smuggling victims in SA catches fire, again

In November, a 44-year-old woman was arrested and admitted to setting the Quintana Road memorial site on fire.

SAN ANTONIO — San Antonio authorities are investigating if a fire at a makeshift memorial dedicated to 53 migrants who died in an overheated semitruck last summer was an act of arson. If so, it would be the second such incident at the far-southwest-side site in six months. 

According to officials with the San Antonio Fire Department, someone stopped by Fire Station 52 to report the recent blaze early Monday morning. By the time fire crews arrived, however, the fire was out. 

“Is this an act that is sending a message to San Antonio, that migrants are not wanted?” said Sandragrace Martinez, the memorial’s curator. “And they’re going to start with something that San Antonio organically brought about? I don’t know the intent. It’s not a good intent, that’s for sure.”

A 44-year-old woman, Estela Banda, was arrested on the morning of Nov. 22 for allegedly setting fire to the memorial set up along Quintana Road. Fifty-three crosses adorned with flags and flowers had been set up, one for each of the migrants who authorities said died of heat-related sickness after they were abandoned in the semitruck last June 27. 

It turned out to be the deadliest human-smuggling event in U.S. history.  

There are efforts underway, led by City Council representatives, to build a permanent memorial for the migrants. But funds have to be raised first. Banda is still awaiting trial. 


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