McALLEN - Hidalgo County’s Criminal District Attorney's Office, Law Enforcement Agencies, Family Violence Taskforce, Mujeres Unidas/Women Together and the City of McAllen hosted the 5th annual “Purple Day” candle vigil on Oct. 3 for domestic violence awareness month.

“Purple Day” is a day to remember, celebrate and honor the lives of those lost and victimized by domestic violence.

In 2018 alone, 174 Texas women lost their lives to domestic violence as well as five other women from Hidalgo county. Mujeres Unidas/Women Together is a non-profit agnecy providing domestic violence and sexual assault support services located in McAllen, TX.

The candle vigil at McAllen’s convention center had guest speakers from domestic violence survivors/victims including Edinburg PD officer, Lisa Zuniga.

Zuniga shares her story witnessing the attacks her mother endured when she was just a child.

“One night my mom and a friend of hers who was visiting, were sitting on the sofa,” said Lisa Zuniga, Edinburg police officer. “Nana and I were playing on the floor and as I looked up, I saw him rush towards my mom. Fists were flying over her head and her body and she tried to defend herself from her seated position. Her friend too, petite like my mom desperately attempted to fight along her side to keep him from further assaulting her.”

Zuniga attended the vigil in honor of her mother, Yolana “Yoli” Torres who passed away in June 1990 to domestic violence when she was just four years old.

Organizations like the Healthy Youth Texas Ambassadors were present in support of those victimized by domestic violence.

“We are an organization that promotes health and wellness to the community of South Texas,” said Adrienne Casciato, club manager. “Our kids do a lot of organizational and community service projects where they volunteer their time in order to make the community a better place and are very blessed to participate in the event.”

Domestic violence isn’t an easy subject but speaking up is the first way to acknowledge the issue.

“This event happens once a year, but their memories should be in our hearts for a lifetime,” said Joel Rivera, Weslaco chief of police. “To have a voice is to have power. This here today is a support system that shows power. Our community has come together as one voice saying ‘domestic violence will not be tolerated.’ To those victims of domestic violence, please don’t suffer in silence - end the silence, stop the violence,” said Rivera.

Five candles were lit in remembrance to honor the lives of the Hidalgo women who passed between 2018-19. Those women were: 27-year-old Samantha Cantu who passed away from stab wounds to the chest by her boyfriend, 24-year-old Maria Vasquez from Alton by her brother-in-law along with her mother 45-year-old Irene Ozuna who was shot and killed by the son-in-law, 25-year-old Yolinda May from Mercedes who passed away from internal bleeding and 41-year-old Melinda Ann “Melly” Garza from Pharr who passed away from asphyxia with evidence of strangulation and blunt force head trauma.

The candle vigil ended in a march around the courtyard’s perimeter and provided information services for anyone seeking help.