Flowers for Genevieve: Lives lost to COVID-19 remembered as state reopens

El Paso News
Kaitlyn Urenda-Culpepper holds a heart-shaped wreath made of multi-colored flowers in front of her late mother's home.

Photo by Jor Arcila.

EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — El Pasoan Kaitlyn Urenda-Culpepper is working in her mom’s honor to pass local, state and federal measures to memorialize the 2,354 El Paso lives lost to COVID-19 and to enhance public health.

This comes as Gov. Greg Abbott announced on Tuesday that he is issuing a new executive order that goes into effect March 10 that will allow any business to open at 100-percent capacity if they choose to, as well as putting an end to the mandatory mask mandate.

“When you lose someone to COVID-19, you don’t get to have a proper funeral,” said Urenda-Culpepper, an El Pasoan who became an advocate following the death of her mother to COVID-19 last summer. “You don’t have that dignity process. There’s no dignity in the death, the burial or the celebration of their life.” 

Urenda-Culpepper hosted a memorial vigil on Monday to honor the life of her mom, Genevieve Martinez, as well as other victims and survivors of COVID-19 in the Borderland in partnership with The Floral Heart Project and the Marked by COVID movement. 

A heart-shaped floral art arrangement was laid in Martinez’s front yard that Urenda-Culpepper says is emblematic of the hospitality her mom offered. Urenda-Culpepper is working in her mom’s honor to memorialize those who were lost to COVID.

Locally, she’s reached out to Mayor Oscar Leeser to pass a resolution to declare March 1 an official day memorializing COVID-19 the victims and survivors. Leeser has not yet responded to Urenda-Culpepper or KTSM’s request for comment on this topic.

At the state level, Urenda-Culpepper is critical of Abbott’s handling of the pandemic and weather crises. She said she’s reached out multiple times, but Abbott has not responded.

In addition to talking to constituents, Urenda-Culpepper said lawmakers must consider the mental health effects of the pandemic and is advocating for communities like El Paso. 

“You are not forgotten,” she said. “Your voice matters and is heard. Together we can move forward and heal collectively.”

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