SAN ANTONIO — Mexican-born artist Roberto Marquez doubles as a humanitarian activist, wielding a paint brush as he illustrates the tragedies of society.
His latest mural rests just off the railroad tracks on San Antonio’s far southwest side, near the site where dozens of migrants spent their final breaths inside a sweltering semi-tractor trailer Monday evening.
“I need to tell that reality, tell the world what is happening to our brothers,” Marquez said.
Fifty-three migrants from multiple countries have died as a result of heat-related sickness after authorities discovered the gruesome scene of stacked bodies inside a semitruck.
Eleven others remain in the hospital fighting for their lives.
“This is an injustice. This shouldn’t have happened,” Marquez said.
The canvas depicts scenes of struggle, pain and uncertainty surrounding the lives of those who aspired to live a better life in the U.S.
Marquez described the mural, which stands behind a growing memorial in honor of the migrants who passed away.
“This is a body that is laid down and this is the interior of the truck. The dark side what I call the negative space and then we have my positive which is the fear is the migrant is like they’re open the door and we see this body coming out of it,” Marquez said.
Marquez’s story begins on the border an ambitious 15-year-old boy hoping for fruitful opportunity in America.
“At that time, I wanted to find me a job in Mexico, but I couldn’t it was difficult just like it is now. I came straight to Tijuana and then I remember paying something like $250-$300 to the courier to cross me over,” Marquez said.
His life as a migrant took him from California to Arizona and eventually Texas where he raised a family. Marquez, who’s now a U.S. citizen, always had a creative spark in him but to turn his hobby into fulltime work is a dream he never thought would come true until it did in 2018.
“And one day after 40 years I decided okay, I like painting, I’m an artist now,” Marquez said.
His artistic activism has taken him around the world, including war-torn Ukraine where he established a mural under a destroyed bridge in the heavily bombarded city of Irpin.
Marquez also painted a mural across the street from Robb Elementary in Uvalde in honor of the 19 children and two teachers who were killed by a teenaged gunman just days before the start of summer break.
Now in the Alamo City, Marquez grips his paintbrush and with each stroke, hopes Americans can learn from such disasters involving migrants.
“This is a big problem, and everyone needs to get away from differences and come and do something about it,” Marquez said. And hopefully government, they do more because we don’t want to see tragedies like this. We don’t want it to repeat.”