St. Paul woman organizes Bride’s March Against Domestic Violence in honor of her mother

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Last year, Marie Garza, a young Latina woman who is pursuing her criminal justice and law enforcement degree at Century College, was watching an episode of American Justice when she realized that there was something important that she needed to do. The episode focused on Gladys Ricart, a Dominican woman who was killed by her ex-boyfriend in New Jersey on the day of her wedding to another man in 1999. 

Watching Ricart’s story brought back a lot of memories for Garza, who has been around domestic violence all her life, both as a child and as an adult. “One of the reasons I was so moved by the story was how they blame the victim,” she said. A lot of questions and emotions began running through her head about her mother, who passed away at the age of 31 after a five year battle with cancer. Why couldn’t her mother get out of an abusive relationship? “I couldn’t answer that question,” Garza said. “No one can answer it.” Garza wished that her mother was still alive, so she could ask her these questions. She also felt a strong need to do something.

When the television program was over, she googled Gladys Ricart, and discovered that an annual march was held in New York in her memorial. The Gladys Ricart and Victims of Domestic Violence Memorial Walk/Brides’ March, is organized by The New York Latinas Against Domestic Violence (LADL) and has become an annual event since 2001.

Garza contacted the LADL and asked how she could start a march here in the Twin Cities, and they helped get her started. She then contacted Anderson Race Management, which organizes other races and events sponsored by Minnesota law enforcement such as the Polar Bear Plunge which benefits the Special Olympics.

Garza said that over the months of planning it, it has become more than just a march. She wants to send a message to the Latino community that it’s okay to call the police in domestic violence situations. “Growing up, calling police was not an option,” she said. “We come from a culture that doesn’t seek out police.” When she was younger, she would call to report a stalking incident, and “most if not all of the time police wouldn’t even get out of their car to talk to me,” she said. She made a promise to herself never to become like that. “I took this as a personal quest to bridge the gap, between law enforcement and people who need them,” she said.

Garza approached the Minnesota Latino Peace Officer’s Association for support of an organization she hopes to start called Liz’s Daughter.  John Lazoya, President of the Chapter, said that any member of the organization may approach the board with a proposal.  Even though Garza is still a student, the board approved supporting Liz’s Daughter, which Garza will spearhead.  The Association will be the fiscal sponsor for proceeds from the march, which is organized through Anderson Race Management, which Garza said takes about $3 from every entry fee (which is $23 dollars in advance and $25 on the day)   

Garza said she plans to conduct outreach and support for women and the Latino community (as well as other communities) surrounding issues of domestic violence, with special attention given to prevention strategies.  She chose the name “Liz’s Daughter” from her mother’s first name. “The memory of my mother is what really drives me to do this,” Garza said. “She’s not here to tell me her story, but I as her daughter understand, and she passed on her strong willed nature to me.” Garza hopes to break the cycle of violence and become a leader in the movement.

The march, which is scheduled for June 12, will start at noon at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in St. Paul and will conclude at the State Capitol, according to the group’s Facebook page. Go here to register.

Participants will march in wedding gowns,or dressed in all white. Men well be asked to  dress in all black, and/or in tuxedos/suits.

There will also be a makeshift wedding reception after the march to celebrate the lives of loved ones lost to domestic violence, and to celebrate the survivors. The reception will take place at Joseph’s Bar and Grill in St. Paul.