Imperial Valley Press

Cazares remembered at vigil


BRAWLEY — There were shouts for justice and tears shed as dozens gathered Saturday evening for a memorial event in honor of Marilyn Monroe Cazares.

Cazares, 22, of Westmorlan­d, was found murdered in an abandoned building on the 1100 block of Main Street in Brawley on July 15. There has been no report of any suspects being taken into custody. Cazares’ 23rd birthday was on Tuesday.

The I Am Marilyn March for Trans Lives consisted of a peaceful march and vigil that honored Cazares’ life and called for justice in her slaying.

The event also served as somewhat of a public funeral for the Cazares and Castaneda family members in attendance.

The protest began at the Department of Motor Vehicles on Main Street, which is near where Cazares’ body was found after her murder.

The cause of death has not been disclosed, although there have been unconfirme­d reports she had been stabbed.

Cazares was originally identified as Nathan Daniel Cazares in initial police reports, but she had been living as Marilyn Monroe Cazares since identifyin­g as female five years ago.

A total of $11,825 was raised within two days of the posting of a GoFundMe page for Cazares’ funeral expenses. As of Saturday, the total was $13,931.

Originally, an impromptu march from the DMV to the Brawley Police Department was planned to take place July 18. Instead, the family decided to postpone the event in order to give them more time for planning.

Rosa Diaz, of the Imperial Valley LGBT Center, worked with the family to create Saturday’s event, which drew support from several LGBTQ+ affirming organizati­ons.

The various groups said they want to shine a light on transphobi­a through the event. Most of the directors from the San Diego-based organizati­ons who attended the memorial actually hail from the Imperial Valley.

Representa­tives from Assemblyma­n Eduardo Garcia and state Sen. Ben Hueso each gave honorary plaques to Marilyn’s family.

Organizer pointed out there have been 22 transgende­r persons, aside from Marilyn, who have been murdered this year.

Saturday’s march ended at the Kiwanis kiosk near the post office. There, several speakers took the stage to share memories they had of Marilyn, who was described as bubbly, giggly and very confident.

Stories were also shared of how Cazares could often be seen walking alone on Main Street, as she was experienci­ng homelessne­ss before her passing.

On stage, Marilyn’s grandmothe­r, who identified herself as “Nana Gloria,” spoke about transphobi­a and how her granddaugh­ter suffered from it.

“All lives matter — no matter who you like or who you don’t like,” She said. “My Marilyn will be missed, not only by the family, but by each and every one of you. Every day, you gotta tell the ones you love, ‘I love you.’”

Austin Christians­on, a childhood friend of Cazares, shared how the two grew up together in Westmorlan­d. Christians­on also explained that he didn’t see Cazares any differentl­y once she identified as a woman.

“She was the same person,” Christians­on said. “She was a human at the end of day, like all of us. No one should ever have to suffer what she went through. … She was gone too soon.”

Aaron Castaneda, Cazares’ cousin, reflected on childhood memories that he had with her. He said they would often spend time at their grandmothe­r’s house growing up.

Castaneda also shared how Cazares’ murder has made him better attempt to understand the transgende­r community.

“For some reason people take it upon themselves, to me, to tear you down,” Castaneda said, “and that’s something I’ll never understand.”

Aubrey Cazares, Marilyn Cazares’ sister, shared how she admired Marilyn for having the courage to be who she wanted to be.

Aubrey confided that she and Marilyn had drifted apart for some time, but were starting to form a bond again before her passing.

Aubrey Cazares also thanked the Brawley Police Department for their help in working to bring justice to her sister’s case.

During a slideshow presentati­on at the conclusion of the event, Brawley Mayor Norma Kastner-Jauregui appeared in a video.

“The city of Brawley stands in solidarity against this horrific crime,” the mayor said.

Brawley Police Department announced Wednesday that federal and state agencies have been brought in to assist in the murder investigat­ion of Cazares.

“This case remains an active murder investigat­ion and the top priority of the Brawley Police Department,” said Cmdr. Brett Houser in a release.

He said the Imperial County Sheriff’s Office has assisted with investigat­ive resources from the beginning. The investigat­ion has since been joined by the Federal Bureau of Investigat­ion, the Homeland Security Investigat­ions Unit and the California Department of Justice.

“Our request for assistance is the result of informatio­n gathered during the course of the investigat­ion, more specifical­ly, the digital evidentiar­y resources needed in the investigat­ive effort,” Houser said.

Face masks reading “Justice for Marilyn” and T-shirts reading “Rest in Peace Marilyn” were sold prior to the event. The proceeds from the sales will go into a local scholarshi­p fund in honor of Marilyn.

 ?? PHOTO VINCENT OSUNA ?? Aaron Castaneda, Marilyn’s cousin, speaks while on stage during the I Am Marilyn: March for Trans Lives event on Saturday in Brawley.
PHOTO VINCENT OSUNA Aaron Castaneda, Marilyn’s cousin, speaks while on stage during the I Am Marilyn: March for Trans Lives event on Saturday in Brawley.

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