‘Only those we forget die’: Losing a brother to smuggling gangs

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People sometimes see my tattoos and think I’m like those guys killing people in the desert. But I just get tattoos because I like them. They tell my story. Others don’t understand that. Somebody beat me up because of them not too long ago. He said my tattoos were from some gang or another and hit me with brass knuckles. When I got home I could barely breathe.

My brothers and I are always getting harassed and discriminated against. My older brother has tattoos on his face, neck, back, hands, feet, legs, belly – everywhere. He’s always getting stopped by the cops. He tried to rent a house not long ago, but the landlord said, ‘We do not want people like you here – people on the wrong path.’ The same thing happened at the maquiladora (assembly factory). We applied for jobs, but at the screening they asked my brother Luís if he had ever had surgery. He said yes, because he had been shot in the jaw. They never called us back. I think the story scared them, or maybe they thought he was just applying to get the medical insurance. People don’t understand that our tattoos don’t make us bad people.

Read Luís’ story

I wasn’t there when my brother Marcos was killed, but I could have been. I had gone home not even 20 minutes earlier. I couldn’t believe it. I still can’t believe it. I wasn’t able to cry when we buried him. I was still in shock. Now, whenever I remember him, I feel like crying. It is even harder when I dream. I dream that we’re hanging out, that everything is normal. Then I wake up and go looking for him, but he’s not there. That’s even worse.

Many of my tattoos relate to him. I have his name, another one says ‘Only those we forget die.’ Near there is a cross and the date he was killed. I’ve got another one that says ‘My mother is her love, her kisses, her prayers, and her blessing.’ My mom, she’s not doing well. She falls apart every month on the date of my brother’s death.

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