After the Uvalde Shooting, Lifelong Residents Consider How to Stop the Next One

The best place for arguing about politics over huge cups of ice and soda in Uvalde, Texas, is the Stripes gas station near the center of town. On Tuesday afternoon, Jesus Rodriguez, usually a regular, wasn’t there. Instead, he was at the town’s civic center with his family, waiting to see if his grandson had survived the deadliest school shooting since Sandy Hook.

The civic center was crowded with families, and quieter than you would’ve guessed, Rodriguez said. Every time a new bus of kids showed up, everyone held their breath until they saw who was on it. Midway through the afternoon, another bus came and Rodriguez’s grandson’s teacher got out, followed by a bunch of kids, but not his grandson. He steeled himself for horrific news. Then a border-patrol bus pulled up, and his grandson was the first one off. He told his family he’d been in the bathroom when he heard the shooting start and had become separated from his class. “He was walking around, like”—Rodriguez puffed his chest out, looking brave. Rodriguez’s relief was short-lived; a few hours later, he heard that his brother’s granddaughter was one of the victims.

Uvalde is a rural and predominantly Hispanic community at the western edge of Texas’s Hill Country, sixty miles from the U.S.–Mexico border. The town is proud of its stately oak trees, and of its status as the Honey Capital of the World, an honor proclaimed at the 1900 World’s Fair in Paris, celebrating the local, and particularly sweet, guajillo honey. Uvalde home-town heroes include the Vice-President who described that office as “not worth a bucket of warm piss,” the Texas governor who presided over the closure of the best little whorehouse in Texas, and Matthew McConaughey. The town used to be a lightly policed, unlocked-doors kind of place, but that has changed in the past twenty years. Who to blame for that—the cartels, the Republicans, “the illegals”—depends on whom you ask. “There used to be four border-patrol agents. Now there are around a hundred,” Willie Edwards, a former teacher, a golf coach, and a member of the school board told me. Recently, under Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s Operation Lone Star, which sent state law-enforcement resources to mobilize border towns, the Border Patrol officers have been joined by a hefty contingent of state troopers from the Department of Public Safety.

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