Private First Class Vanessa Guillen was a 20 year old latina U.S. Army soldier from Houston, Texas. Throughout her life, Vanessa resided in the East End of Houston and attended Cesar Chavez High School, graduating in the class of 2018.
Vanessa grew up with five siblings and loved to play soccer at Chavez. Vanessa’s mother, Gloria Guillen, stated that ever since Vanessa was a child, she always had an interest in the military and despite her mother’s protests, she enlisted in the military at the age of 18.
According to Vanessa’s family, Vanessa confided in them that she was getting sexually harassed in the army base, but never reported it, fearing that she would get attacked and/or feel invalidated and unbelieved. These fears are highly common when someone is sexually harassed or assaulted, so naturally, her family understood and tried their best to comfort Vanessa.
She went missing on April 23 and the Guillen family started the search until 2 months later on June 30, 2020 when they found out she was murdered after authorities found Vanessa’s remains. On April 22, 2020, Vanessa was brutally dismembered, burned, and hidden in Fort Hood, TX by a fellow enlisted soldier named Aaron Robinson, a 20 year old black male, who committed suicide on July 1, 2020 just as investigators were closing in on Vanessa’s case. On July 30, 2020, Robinson’s girlfriend, Cecily Ann Aguilar, was interviewed and admitted Robinson told her on April 22, 2020 told her he had struck a female soldier in the head with a hammer multiple times in the arms room, murdering her in Fort Hood.
In the early morning of April 23, 2020, Robinson and Aguilar began to work on dismembering and burning Vanessa’s remains at a site near the Leon River before hiding her remains in three separate holes. After the murder, Vanessa’s family reported to the authorities that their sister had been missing for about 6 days after her murder, before finally finding out about her murder around June. At a protest for justice formed by her sister, Lupe Guillen, she cried, "She was taken away from me in the most horrible way, yet they take it as if it was a joke" said Lupe. "My sister is no joke. My sister's a human being just like me, her, all of us."
Vanessa Guillen Mural sites
Murals around Houston, as well as the world, depict significant pieces of history and even act as memoirs. From these murals, we are reminded of painful times of the past such as ‘The Rebirth of Our Nation’ by Leo Tanguma in Harrisburg and we’re also reminded of times of liberation and hope like the Black Lives Matter statement on Carver Road in front of Carver High School in Acres Home, Houston, TX. When Vanessa Guillen’s case was released to the public and Houstonians found out that she was a fellow Houstonian, a muralist that goes by the name of Donkey Boy, contacted 20 different Houston based artists to paint murals in different areas of Houston, so as to not let anyone in Houston forget the unjust actions that occurred to our fellow Houstonian, Vanessa Guillen.
A recent interview with artist Jesse Sefeuntes, conducted by T.E.J.A.S, allowed us to get some insight into why and how murals are important. Jesse said, “Murals took on a more important and longer row in their function and one they became narrative they tell a story they give you a beginning, middle, and an end. That’s the figurative meaning of murals.” The Vanessa Guillen murals that have now taken place in different areas of Houston have since been acting as vigils for Houstonians, friends, and families. Vanessa’s murals acting as vigils have provided a sense of peace, comfort, and most of all, support to those who have been deeply affected by her death by giving them a space to pray and support her even in death. Her murals are home to millions of flowers, plushies, prayer candles, rosaries, and notes of peace, love, and prayers.On our website, you will find the locations and pictures of the murals of Vanessa Guillen throughout the City of Houston so you can pray and support her and continue the fight for justice.