The sun dipped behind the architecture building, and the summer evening breeze ruffled the hair of 75 heads in the South Mall.
Recent UT architecture graduate Barron Peper organized a vigil for his best friend, roommate and recent radio-television-film graduate Marcelo Flores — more often called Mars — the evening after his death was reported in Acapulco, Mexico, on July 15.
"I had the privilege of being Mars' friend for five years," Peper said. "We met freshman year, and sophomore year, got closer and became inseparable."
A circle of 75 people decorated the South Mall lawn. From 75 mouths came 75 stories. These people knew Flores from Tejas, Texas Blazers, Texas 4000, meeting him on a campus tour or radio-television-film classes. They sat in a circle, sharing stories for the man that shared his time with them. For 40 minutes, they relived their memories with Flores.
Vigil attendees told stories about their relationships with Flores. Jenna Million | Daily Texan Staff
"For all of you who know Mars, you know he was gifted in being present," Peper said. "He was so good at holding space for someone else, take someone wherever they were and just listen."
Meryl Carrey, a 2011 UT graduate, rode with Flores on the 2012 Texas 4000 team. On the trip, he injured his wrist and was not able to ride for three weeks and was relegated to the van that traveled next to the bikers, she said. But he didn’t want to accept the end of his ride.
Carrey remembered the last time she saw Flores — about a month ago.
“We went to a show at Cheer Up Charlie's and continued going at Barbarella’s and shared a bottle of champagne, and then he disappeared,” Carrey said. “That was the last time I saw him. His presence and being around him, I said to myself, ‘When he gets back from Mexico, I want to strengthen our friendship.’ It truly breaks my heart that I can't.”
Flores was a 2012 participant in Texas 4000, traveling on the Rockies route. Tess Cagle | Daily Texan Staff
Mary McKenna and Tess Mckenna, twin sisters and music and human learning graduate students, met Flores and his twin brother, Alex, when they all worked as orientation advisers. The four bonded over being identical twins.
“[They were] best friends, their energy built off of each other,” Mary said. “They were wonderful as a team. I was glad I got the time to know them as individuals, and Mars is really special to me, and I'm glad I had the opportunity to hear from everyone tonight, and [I’m] going to be keeping Mars' family in my thoughts, especially Alex.”
Peper said he wanted to give people who loved Mars like he did a way to remember and honor him. He lived with Flores during their final year at UT. They became friends with their neighbors, and came back one more time after graduation to have dinner with the two young families they used to live next to.
During that dinner, one mother made s’mores, and the rest of the group sat around the fire with beers and stories. Mars played with the kids; one family had three children, the other two. They stayed until dark that night, talking around the fire until well after bedtime.
“Mars would joke they were our future,” Peper said. “They had kids; they had jobs; [they were] interacting with their younger neighbors, and he said, ‘This is what I want.’”
And when they talked about the future, about finding jobs in architecture and radio, television or film, they always supported each other’s visions, Peper said.
“We would share in each other's dreams and jump on board each other's ships of the future,” Peper said. “All you have to do is raise up your sails for the winds of destiny.”
Friends of Flores embrace at the conclusion of a vigil held in his honor. Tess Cagle | Daily Texan Staff
Correction: An earlier version of this article contained a quote that had incorrect information. That quote has since been deleted.