A small crowd huddled in a semi-circle around Lucy Pineda, executive director of Latinos Unidos en Massachusettswhich organized a vigil for 41-year-old Reina Morales Rojas, an East Boston woman who went missing in November, Tuesday outside of the East Boston police station.
She held a microphone into her cell phone, to allow Rojas’ sister and two children, ages 13 and 15, who spoke to supporters from their home in El Salvador.
“They want their mom back,” Pineda said of the teenagers plea, in an interview.
During the one-hour vigil, which started around 4 p.m., the nonprofit called on police and community leaders to advocate for more action in the investigation of Rojas’ disappearance.
Rojas was last seen Nov. 26 around 9 p.m. getting into a car in the area of Bennington Street in East Boston, police have said. She stands 5 feet 5 inches tall and weighs 145 pounds.
A Somerville police spokesperson referred questions to the Middlesex district attorney’s office, which couldn’t be immediately reached for comment.
A Boston police spokesperson said the case remains under investigation.
The vigil was streamed live on LUMA’s Facebook page. This was the second vigil since Sunday held for Rojas.
With gloved fingers, attendees carried white flowers and heart-shaped decorations, as they stood bundled up in winter coats and knitted hats in 37 degree weather as the sun set.
Some held up handwritten signs with messages, as pedestrians and cars passed through the busy intersection of Paris, Meridian and Emmons streets.
“¿Dónde está Reina?,” one sign read. “Las vidas Latinas importan,” read another, which translates in English to “Latino Lives Matter.” “Police silence is police complicity,” read another sign.
Over her puffer jacket, one woman wore a t-shirt with Reina’s face on the front. On the back, the shirt read, “Reina counts too. Where is Reina? Justice now!”
Rojas does not have any family in the area and moved to East Boston last May, according to the group’s Facebook post of a letter to local authorities. Her sister and children had stopped receiving daily calls and texts from her around the time she disappeared, according to previous reports.
Pineda said LUMA is advocating for the family because it’s the only way that authorities can hear their voices.
“Since we started [speaking about it], they started working on it,” Pineda said.
Pineda said she got in contact with Rojas’ family in El Salvador after LUMA made a Facebook post in hopes of finding and helping the family.
Erika Arevalo, a community member who attended the vigil, said she feels it’s an important topic to speak about. For whatever reason, Arevalo said, there is still much unknown about what happened to Rojas, while investigators uncovered details on the case of Ana Walshe, a Cohasset mother who went missing on New Year’s Day, who investigators now say was murdered by her husband.
Investigators launched a high-profile search for Walshe, who was reported missing on Jan. 4.
But while Rojas was reported missing in late November to police, who did not publicize her case until Jan. 12.
“In two months, they don’t have nothing,” said Arevalo, who volunteers for the Cosecha movement. “We should be here for all women, no matter if the woman is from here or another country.”
Somerville and State Police are providing assistance in the investigation into Rojas’ disappearance, officials said Tuesday.
“Ms. Rojas was reportedly dropped off in Somerville the day she was last seen,” State Police posted on Twitter Tuesday. Anyone with information about her disappearance is asked to call 911 or the Boston Police Department at (617) 343-4324 or 1-800-494-TIPS.
David Procopio, a State Police spokesperson, said the agency is “actively assisting Boston Police with their investigation.”
MSP detectives and Somerville Police are assisting in this investigation; Ms. Rojas was reportedly dropped off in Somerville the day she was last seen. @bostonpolice are leading the investigation; anyone w/ info is asked to call 911 or BPD at (617) 343-4324 or 1-800-494-TIPS. pic.twitter.com/DSg5OyOyca— Mass State Police (@MassStatePolice) January 24, 2023
LUMA’s next step will be meeting with local authorities and elected officials, Pineda said, which the organization requested in a letter they sent Monday to authorities, including the Suffolk and Middlesex district attorney’s offices.
Pineda — who was dressed in a white coat, white jeans and white hat — greeted, hugged and shook the hands of countless attendees after the vigil.
“This is not gonna be the last [vigil] ,” Pineda said to the small crowd at the end of the vigil. “We’re gonna continue until we find Reina.”
Travis Andersen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.