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ELPASOSTRONG: How You Can Help + Spotlight on Gabe Vasquez

El Paso, Texas: some people know it as 'the pass', 'Sun City', or the tip of Texas. Others may think of it as the halfway point from Austin to LA, or the border city that has been a point of controversy in the news for the past several months.

But for me, El Paso is one of my favorite places on the planet and the birthplace of my Honey.

Since we started dating, I've had the pleasure of spending a significant amount of time out west in Sun City. Every time we visit the city welcomes me with open arms and, although I am not from there, I can tell you that it's the biggest small town you'll ever know. Every time we visit, we can't run an errand or go out to eat without running into someone we know.

El Paso is nestled at the base of the Franklin Mountains and its sister city is Juarez. Many people actually live in El Paso and work in Juarez and vice versa. The two cities support each other economically, culturally, and socially. No matter where you are in El Paso, you can see the words "La Biblia es la Verdad. Leela" (translated: "The Bible is the Truth, Read It") written on the mountains above Juarez in Mexico.

El Paso is home to an army base, a medical school, a University of Texas campus, a minor league baseball team, and the best Mexican food I've ever had. When I walk down to Gussie's on Sunday morning for fresh tamales or pastries, the ladies behind the counter always navigate my terrible Spanglish with such kindness and sweetness- they let me try to order in Spanish and gently correct me when my pronunciation is poor. They never rush me or make me feel bad. I am a minority here and yet, although I don't deserve it, El Pasoans always make me feel at home.

On the morning of Saturday, August 3rd, 2019 a young man who had driven over 600 miles to El Paso, Texas brought terror to the entire community by unexpectedly opening fire on customers and employees at a local Walmart. This horrific Hispanophobic massacre claimed the lives of 22 individuals and injured over 25 others. It has been nearly a month since the August 3rd tragedy and I am still at a loss for words.

In the hopes of not giving the shooter any more power than he has already harnessed, I will not elaborate further on the incident except to tell you that in true El Paso form, the community has responded to the victims with nothing but love. #ELPASOSTRONG has gone viral and people from all over the world have reached out to the community to send their love and support. For me, one of the hardest parts about these kinds of tragedies is that once they are no longer in the media, it is easy to move on with your life and forget about them. But the reality is, this tragedy has changed people's lives forever and as they begin their healing, they could still use your support now more than ever.

Whether you have never been to El Paso or you are deeply connected to it, please consider supporting the community through one of the following ways:

Chuco Relic along with Proper Print Shop, two local El Paso staples are selling the infamous El Paso Strong shirts and donating 20% of the profits to the El Paso Shooting Victims' Fund. Interested in supporting but don't want to wait for the shirts to come back in stock? Click HERE to donate directly to the El Paso Shooting Victims' Fund

If you would like to donate to the scholarship fund for the children of those shot and injured or killed in this tragedy click HERE

Paso Del Norte Community Foundation, the premiere vehicle for support in the Paso del Norte region is hosting the El Paso Relief Fund

Interested in contributing in a more symbolic way? The City of El Paso has a Remembrance Tree Program in which you can gift a tree to forever remember those lost during this horrific tragedy.

El Paso Kung Fu is hosting a self defense class, BBQ, and BJJ seminar on Saturday, September 7th from 10am-3pm at their Rojas Drive location. There is a $25 donation minimum to attend this Benefit Seminar and 100% of the proceeds will go to the victims.

Lastly, I can't end this post without introducing you to El Paso native, Gabe Vasquez, the artist + mastermind behind the #ELPASOSTRONG murals popping up all over the city of El Paso. I had the pleasure of photographing Gabe during my time in El Paso a few weeks ago.

Portrait of Gabe in front of the beginnings of the W. Yandell Dr mural on Saturday, August 17th, 2019

I was on my way to dinner and saw Gabe painting the beginnings of the W. Yandell Dr mural and couldn't help but pull over and spend some time with him. True to El Paso form, he was kind enough to let me hang with him for a bit & let me tell you, this gent is one of the most down to earth + talented artists I've ever met.

He is partnering with organizations all around the city to give back to those affected by the August 3rd massacre. In addition to these organizations commissioning ELPASOSTRONG murals on their property to support the victims, several are also partnering with Gabe as vendors for stickers of Gabe's one of a kind murals.

Check him out on Instagram @darth_grenade and follow along to get your hands on his badass merch.

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