Originally published in La Plaza Press
By MIA ARANDA
After mother of four and fruit vendor Marlen Benitez, 28, was struck by a car at her fruit stand off of Highland Ave. on Oct. 13, the local community of San Bernardino county stepped up to show support for Marlen and her family. The video recording of the incident shows the driver slowing down before speeding up and directly hitting Benitez and her fruit stand.
Angel Mendez-Flores set up a GoFundMe page on Oct. 15 to help defray the costs of medical expenses for Benitez and support her four children. After a mere three days of sharing, the page has surpassed its goal of 75, 000 dollars with approximately 2,400 donors.
Mendez-Flores posted on the GoFundMe page on Oct. 18 that Benitez had woken up from her coma after being in critical condition at the Loma Linda University Medical Center.
Lyzzeth Mendoza, Community Engagement and Policy Associate of the Inland Coalition for Immigrant Justice, organized and led a community vigil for Benitez on Oct. 18 at 5 p.m. at Highland Ave. Participants had to wear masks and were encouraged to bring poster signs and flowers to show their respects.
Lyzzeth Mendoza of the Inland Coalition for Immigrant Justice leads the vigil for Marlen on Highland Ave. on Oct. 18. Mendoza describes the importance of street vendors in local communities. (MIA ARANDA/ La Plaza photo)
A “Justice 4 Marlen” sign is shown posted on a pole that attendees first saw as they arrived. The sign reads “vendedora atropellado por un racista [vendor run over by a racist].” (MIA ARANDA/ La Plaza photo)
Attendees are shown holding white roses to honor fruit vendor Marlen Benitez. These roses were handed out to attendees prior to the start of the vigil. (MIA ARANDA/ La Plaza photo)
Renato Gonzales of San Bernardino says “Los que al traves del cellular, escuchen. Por favor, pasen la voz: Que no se siga corriendo el odio. Por que no venimos aqui a espresar odio. [Those with a cell phone, listen. Please spread the word: that hate does not continue to run. Because we don’t come here to express hatred.]” Gonzales continues ” Por el contrario, venimos a espresarnos de una manera en la que queremos que esta cuidad y todas las cuidades nos aceptan como ser humanos con dignidad, con respeto, con unida. [On the contrary, we come to express ourselves in a way in which we want this city and all cities to accept us as human beings with dignity, with respect, with unity.]”(MIA ARANDA/ La Plaza photo)
Attendees were encouraged to bring poster signs to also show their support for street vendors as they often face discrimination and hate. (MIA ARANDA/ La Plaza photo)
An attendee from the audience volunteers to speak during the event. One of the signs he placed earlier for Benitez had been vandalized. He says, “I got angry. I got angry that there are sick, disgusting people out there in the world that hate people cause they’re from a different area or have different color of their skin. And I’m glad that all of us are here and there’s an outpouring on social media right now for Marlen and for their family. It’s very important to show the sick people in the world that there’s good people out here who care and who won’t take this . . . from anybody. We’re here. We’re here to love our people. They’re good people. They’re just out here to work. God bless you everybody, thank you. Glad you’re here.” (MIA ARANDA/ La Plaza photo)
A woman unrelated to Benitez gathers with the family, giving them her condolences and shares that her son had been killed. She says, “Y a veces nos discriminan porque simplemente hablamos español [And sometimes they discriminate against us because we simply speak Spanish].” (MIA ARANDA/ La Plaza photo)
A sign is shown at the vigil featuring the Virgin Mary and in orange letters, “Familia Benitez” in respects to Marlen Benitez and her family.
A man rallies up the crowd toward the end of the vigil and starts a chant for the audience to repeat. During his speech, he says, “Aqui estamos, y no nos vamos. Y si nos hechan, nos regresamos. [We are here, and we’re not leaving. If they throw us out, we’ll return].” (MIA ARANDA/ La Plaza photo)
Following the conclusion of speeches, an attendee puts a battery-operated tealight candle on Benitez’s vigil. The event finished approximately at 6:30 p.m. (MIA ARANDA/ La Plaza photo)