Three hours had passed since Carmen Rodríguez spoke on the phone with her sister Sandra, when a man came to her store, stole her money and, at point-blank, shot her in front of her four children, one of them just five months old.
That afternoon Carmen told her sister that she wanted to build a house in Santo Domingo. She had not visit the Dominican Republic, the land where she was born and grew up, for over 13 years.
“She came [to Baltimore] looking for a better future for herself and also for us, her family, and look what she found, death” says Sandra through tears and holding a huge painting with several photographs of her sister.
On the afternoon of December 22, Carmen Rodríguez, 37, became the tenth Hispanic killed in 2019, one of the most violent years for Baltimore residents.
According to videos released by the local Police Department, at 5:26 p.m. a man entered Carmen’s grocery store, located at 157 North Kenwood Avenue, bought a couple of products, left the store, and got into his car.
A few seconds later another man, with his face covered, got out of the vehicle, and entered the store. He took out a gun and shot Carmen in front of her seven-, five- and two-year-old children, in addition to her five-month-old baby. A suspect has been detained.
“We want justice! Yesterday it was my sister and tomorrow it could be any of us. […] I don’t understand what the authorities are doing in Baltimore”, says Sandra, who able to come to say goodbye thanks to a humanitarian visa.
For several months, the Hispanic community has documented various attacks against its members, ranging from beatings, assaults and murders.
“It is a crime that to us, as the Latinx community, has hurt our hearts and souls […] I am worried because I have three children and I want a better city for them, I want a better future, and that is why I came here from El Salvador,” says Francisco Baires, one of the attendees of the vigil in memory of Carmen, held last Wednesday, January 22.
Organized by various Hispanic leaders, the idea emerged at one of the monthly meetings that the Baltimore Latino Committee has held for several years, and where neighbors and victims have shared their experiences.
Although they documented the murder of 10 Hispanics last year, community leaders believe that there are more victims, as many do not report the crimes to police for fear of being deported.
“There are so many Latinx victims that have been attacked, beaten nearly to death […] the Latinx community has become a target, easy prey for criminals in Baltimore, those who see the Latinx community as weak,” says Angelo Solera, director of Nuestras Raíces Inc.
Faced with this climate of violence, for the first time in Baltimore history more than 200 people marched with candles and banners from the store where Carmen was murdered to City Hall. There, they demanded justice for the victims and asked the authorities for solutions to the violence in the city.
“[Carmen] was the person who pushed us to do this. She was the latest victim who finally made us take notice and do something for our community. No matter what country you are from, we have to do something, and we are talking black and white people, come together” implores Carlos Crespo, another of the community leaders