The story behind Toronto's new tribute to the victims of the Pulse nightclub massacre
The mural — titled 'Still Estamos Aqui' — honours the largely Hispanic victims of the Pulse nightclub massacre
One year after a gunman stormed a Florida nightclub and killed 49 people, a Toronto artist is set to unveil her tribute to the victims of the massacre.
Janet Romero calls the the wood-paneled mural Still Estamos Aqui — Spanish for "we are still here" — a nod to the largely Hispanic victims who had filled Orlando's Pulse nightclub during Latin night when the shooting occurred.
The piece will be revealed outside The 519 LGBT community centre during a candlelight vigil on Monday evening.
"It hit a different place because it was predominantly Latinx folks who died that day," said Romero on Metro Morning. She uses the term "Latinx" as a gender neutral identifier for the community.
The challenge of the piece, Romero explained, was to simultaneously honour the Hispanic victims of the Pulse massacre, while recognizing the various other groups within the LGBT community that have been targeted in violent hate crimes.
"How do I depict the Latinx community within the images, but also with an awareness that it isn't just my community that I'm trying to honour?" she remembered asking herself after receiving the commission.
The difficulty of that task began to fade away as the mural took shape.
"The moment where the energy of the people felt alive is when I was doing the skin," Romero said of the four faces that make up the piece.
"When I was colouring in the skin tone for each person, there was something about the texture in the wood, the fibre, that made the skin look so much more alive than I think I could ever accomplish on a canvas."
Still Estamos Aqui will be unveiled along with 49 lanterns that have been made specifically for the memorial. They'll be lit after the name of each victim is read aloud.
Along with her mural, Romero says the lanterns and ceremony have given the grieving community an opportunity to channel creativity as it continues its healing process.
The event begins at 8 p.m. Monday at The 519 at 519 Church St.
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