When a murder victim’s grave becomes a tourist attraction

Nine years ago, the city of San Antonio buried the grave of the fatally wounded San Antonio Cartel kingpin Hector “El Chango” Palacios in the grounds of the Alamo. That’s because everyone had moved on by then and the new plan was to spend millions of tax dollars building a new park in Palacios’ name. For years, Palacios is not what we call “missing.” There are no hearings on the controversial matter when it comes up. Not with every nook and cranny of Texas history neglected to a great degree.

So some Texans have gone after the San Antonio Cartel. They’ve quoted chapter and verse from gangland hits in which Palacios, known as Chango, was said to be the hunter. Then in a debate on CBS Sunday Morning, Chris Isham, a writer with the newsmagazine, recounted how he became obsessed with the case. He wrote a book called “The Man Who Killed the Dream” and he created an original English superlative to describe the life Palacios led: “It seemed a reasonable fit,” Isham said.

Drew Tarver, a Texas justice of the peace from New Braunfels, had other ideas. He was appalled that the burial ground had become open to tourists. He filed a lawsuit on behalf of a citizen, arguing that the EPA had never gotten permission to change the ground’s composition. The smell might as well be poison, the sewer bill could not be paid. Tarver’s argument resonated with many Texans. In particular, homegrown lawmen hit the road for non-violent gangster snitches.

Protests were held, yet the funding came through. The San Antonio Cartel was dug up and put to rest.

But not like any other grave.

When the city dug up the grave, it found black gravel underneath. No straight cement anywhere. The sand was just there on purpose so it was just like a clear cemetery. For those who believe Palacios was nothing more than a drug kingpin, this was another pernicious revelation. For them, it was just another suggestion that the afterlife is another interpretation of reality, another interpretation of the truth.

Perhaps, the naysayers prefer to reject Palacios the legend, instead portraying him as something more. Perhaps the new, consecrated ground is not the full truth after all. Maybe Palacios was wrong in his criminal and maybe total disrespect was still disrespect enough.

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