Hundreds mourn slain students at UTEP memorial


El PASO, Texas — Sobbing students and family members held each other as the sound of Amazing Grace filled the open air of the campus plaza. Every hand gripped a tissue ready to dab the tears flowing from behind dark sunglasses.

The College of Business Administration at the University of Texas at El Paso, hosted a memorial on November 8, for students Eder A. Diaz, 23, and Manuel A. Acosta, 22, who were shot to death in Cd. Juarez, Mexico on November 2.

Members of the Diaz family listen UTEP officials honor the memory of Eder Diaz. (Danya Hernandez/

Members of the Diaz family listen to UTEP officials honor the memory of Eder Diaz. (Danya Hernandez/

“Manny and Eder came to this University to study at our College of Business Administration,” said Dr. Robert Nachtmann, dean of the COBA. “They as with all UTEP students, come to UTEP to build their futures to enable their dreams and to fulfill promises to families, friends and to themselves.”

The breezeway patio at UTEP was filled with some 400 family members, friends, classmates and UTEP officials to honor their memory. “It is fitting that we hold our campus memorial service in this wonderful plaza boarded by our College of Business Administration, the academic home of Manuel Acosta and Eder Diaz, and our University library where knowledge developed over and through time resides,” said Dr. Nachtmann.

The grieving parents and friends of both students were invited to take the stage and share a few words and memories about them.

“My son was always smiling. He always had the precise word at the right time,” said Guadalupe Villalobos Acosta, mother of Acosta. “I want to thank all of you for this memorial, and I want you to remember my son this way, as a man of one piece. My son hasn’t left, his body might be gone but his spirit will forever live in the heart of all of you.”

After graduating from the Instituto Mexico in Cd. Juarez, Acosta entered UTEP on fall 2006, and was scheduled to graduate in May 2011 as a Computer Information Systems Major. For the last three years he had also been working at the dean’s office.

Parents and siblings of Manuel Acosta attended the memorial prepared by UTEP officials. (Danya Hernandez/

Parents and siblings of Manuel Acosta attended the memorial prepared by UTEP officials. (Danya Hernandez/

“My staff will tell you that not a day went by that they didn’t hear me whisper, what are Manny’s working hours today?” Nachtmann said. “On October 29th my office held a staff appreciation lunch. We learned at that lunch in that Manny was to accept employment in his field of study with an El Paso firm, as is always the case with Mr. Acosta, well done.”

Diaz was a graduate from Cathedral High School. He attended El Paso Community College before transferring to UTEP on fall 2010 to pursue a major in international business.

“Before he registered at UTEP, I advised him to go to NMSU where his brother is, or the University of San Antonio where his sister is, or any other University. But he told me no, he said he wanted to go to UTEP, that he was very happy here with us,” said his father Armando Diaz in a trembling voice.

Armando and Yolanda Diaz also gave a written eulogy briefly commemorating every important milestone in their son’s life. “He was a wonderful son, ideal, enthusiastic, smiling, and even unexpected because my wife Yolanda found out she was pregnant when she was six months and the next month she gave birth,” said his father in the eulogy.

White paper doves, with written messages from their friends, surrounded the pictures of Acosta and Diaz. Next to the stage the parents arranged pictures of the students, placing the urn with Diaz’ ashes in the center.

The memorial came to a close with the song Las Golondrinas in the background as the people present approached the parents of the two students to offer their condolences. “God needed an angel. That’s why He took him,” said Guadalupe V. Acosta.

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