Mother Laments Over Son’s Recent Death

Ema González Barragán stands in front of the location where her son, Omar González, 21, was shot and killed the afternoon of Thursday, Oct. 27, 2011.

Note from the editor:

Last week, as we worked on some of the stories for this issue, I overheard Monica Reynoso, our bilingual translator and Back of the Yards resident, on the phone with her mother. Given our crowded shoulder-to-shoulder situation in the office, I could not help but listen to the whole conversation. She urged her mother to stay calm and to stay inside for the rest of the day. Moments before the conversation, a young man had been shot in front of her house. Though, the empty sad feeling remains equal for every young man or woman lost to street violence, seeing the reactions of not only my co-worker, but also other residents who witnessed the event was in many ways shocking. A few days later, I went to the place where this young man had died and luckily some residents pointed me to his mother who happened to also be around the area. Read our story below and see for yourself what Ema Gonzalez Barragan had to say in light of her son’s death.
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On Thursday Oct. 27, a young man was shot dead in the 4600 block of Honore Street.

According to the Cook County Medical Examiner’s office, Omar Gonzalez, 21, was shot at about 12:50 p.m. doors away from his home. He was later pronounced dead at 1:21 p.m. at Mount Sinai Hospital. Gonzalez was standing outside when he was struck in the shoulder and the side of his body, the Tribune reported.

“He was a good boy, very calm, quiet and often kept things to himself. He used to go out with his friends and acquaintances, but those who knew him always said that he was a good boy,” said Gonzalez’s mother, Ema Gonzalez Barragan.

Gonzalez, a former Lara student who later dropped out of Richards Career Academy during his sophomore year, gradually drifted away from his mother’s side and became affiliated with one of the local gangs according to his mother – motive alone to worry her day and night.

“He began changing when he was 15-years-old. He would go and leave and sometimes not even come home,” said Barragan.

For most of her time in the United States, Barragan has been a single mother raising her four children – one of them lives in Mexico. Although Barragan cannot find a real explanation for what happened to her son when he turned 15, the lack of motivation, positive role models, immigration status and good education could have been influencing factors.

“I asked him to finish high school, I also asked him to get his GED, but he refused,” said Barragan. “I said ‘go to school’ and he would say ‘no, I have things to do.’”

Though she knew her son could have made a greater effort to finish high school, she never imagined that one day she would be rushed out of work only to find out that her son had been killed.

“I felt a lot of pain in my heart,” said Barragan as she stood silently crying. “I have to be strong because, I have [other] kids and I have to fight for them. My son also left an 11-month-old baby so I have to be supportive and I cannot leave him alone.”

Gonzalez’s death has left a neighborhood block marked with fearful residents and a mother lamenting in pain.

As Barragan walked around the block where her son had been killed just a few days ago, she talked to a few residents who offered their condolences.

She urged her youngest son, Noel, 10, to stay by her side. “I am scared because at times [Noel] is rebellious,” she said.

But, while Noel walked away ignoring his mother’s calling, Barragan found the strength to deliver a message to her entire community.

“To all the youth in the streets involved in gangs, stop causing all this pain,” said Barragan. “You don’t know the pain that you cause when a mother loses her child. I hope you leave the streets and focus on better things as opposed to killing each other. It’s really painful when a mother loses her son.”

Madre Lamenta la Reciente Muerte de su Hijo

El pasado jueves 27 de octubre, un joven fue herido de muerte en la cuadra 4600 al sur de la Calle Honore.

Según la Oficina del Médico Forense del Condado de Cook, Omar González, 21, fue impactado aproximadamente a las 12:50 p.m. a unas puertas de su residencia. Fue declarado muerto a la 1:21 p.m. en el Hospital Monte Sinaí. González estaba parado afuera cuando fue impactado en el hombro y en el costado de su cuerpo, reportó el Chicago Tribune.

“Él era un buen muchacho, muy calmado, muy tranquilo, y a menudo se guardaba las cosas para sí mismo. Salía con sus amigos y conocidos, pero los que lo conocían siempre decían que era un buen muchacho”, dijo la madre de González, Ema González Barragán.

González, un ex alumno de la Primaria Lara que después abandonó sus estudios en la Academia Richards durante su segundo año, gradualmente se fue apartando del lado de su madre y se afilió a una de las pandillas locales—motivo suficiente para preocuparla día y noche.

“Comenzó a cambiar cuando tenía 15 años. Se iba y a veces ni siquiera regresaba a la casa”, dijo Barragán.

Durante la mayor parte de su estancia en los Estados Unidos, Barragán ha sido madre soltera criando a sus cuatro hijos-uno de ellos vive en México. Aunque Barragán no puede encontrar una explicación real de lo que le pasó a su hijo cuando cumplió 15 años, la falta de motivación, modelos positivos, el estatus migratorio y una buena educación podrían haber sido los factores de influencia.

“Le pedí que terminara la secundaria, también le pedí que hiciera su GED pero no quiso”, dijo Barragán. “Le dije ‘ve a la escuela’ y me decía ‘no, tengo cosas que hacer’”.

Aunque ella sabía que su hijo podría haber hecho un mayor esfuerzo para terminar la secundaria, ella nunca imaginó que algún día iba a salir de su trabajo para enterarse que su hijo había sido asesinado.
“Sentí mucho dolor en mi corazón”, dijo Barragán mientras lloraba en silencio. “Tengo que ser fuerte, porque tengo [otros] hijos y tengo que luchar por ellos. Mi hijo también dejó a un bebé de 11 meses así que tengo que darle mi apoyo y no lo puedo dejar solo”.

La muerte de González ha dejado a una cuadra marcada con residentes temerosos y a otra madre lamentándose del dolor.

Mientras Barragán caminaba por la cuadra donde su hijo había sido asesinado hace apenas algunos días, ella habló con algunos residentes que le ofrecieron sus condolencias.

Le pedía a su hijo Noel, 10, que se quedara a su lado. “Tengo miedo porque a veces [Noel] se pone rebelde”, ella dijo.

Mientras Noel se alejaba ignorando el llamado de su madre, Barragán encontró las fuerzas para enviarle un mensaje a toda la comunidad.

“A todos los jóvenes en las calles que están involucrados en las pandillas, dejen de causar todo este dolor”, dijo Barragán. “No saben el dolor que causan cuando una madre pierde a su hijo. Espero que dejen las calles y se enfoquen en mejores cosas en lugar de matarse entre sí. Es muy doloroso cuando una madre pierde a su hijo”.