A procession of mourners, all dressed in white, passed through the stained glass doors of St. Joseph the Worker Church Thursday morning to say one final goodbye to Berkeley High students Jazy, 17, and Angel Sotelo Garcia, 15, teen brothers killed in a shooting earlier this month.
A few hundred attendees, including brothers, cousins, aunts, friends and teammates from the Tecos soccer team, packed into the same Berkeley church where Jazy and Angel had been baptized as infants. The day’s rituals — viewing the bodies, a mass and eulogies in English and Spanish, a final blessing, a burial at Mt. Eden Cemetery in Hayward — offered relief for the grieving family.
“Lo único que yo quería es que los muchachos estuvieran ya aquí, en un lugar descansando, para nosotros poder venir como familia a hablar con ellos, a verlos,” Maria Sotelo, Jazy and Angel’s mother, said after burying her sons. (“The only thing I wanted was for the boys to be here, in a resting place, so that we could come as a family to talk to them, to see them.”)
At Mt. Eden, family and friends decorated a single grave, in which both caskets had been stacked, with bouquets of red and white roses, letters and a soccer ball in honor of the brothers. Sotelo chose the Hayward cemetery so she and her four remaining children, ages 14, 9, 6 and 3, could visit regularly after soccer practice. Around the grave, a group of aunts started singing Juan Gabriel’s Amor Eterno a capella as relatives took sips from a bottle of tequila and a toddler used a tissue to wipe away tears from her mother’s face.
The funeral marks a new chapter for the family, which had put their grieving process on hold for weeks while they waited for autopsies of the boys, delayed by a backlog caused by a shortage of doctors and a recent uptick in county homicides. Jazy and Angel were killed while attending a classmate’s birthday party Oct. 1 in North Oakland, and a vigil, organized with help from a parent group called Latinos Unidos de Berkeley, was held days later. As of Thursday, Oakland police had not shared any new information about arrests or the progress of their investigation.
Melani Garcia Macias, a 20-year-old cousin who grew up so close to the boys that she calls them her brothers, said she doesn’t know what the future holds for their family now. Jazy and Angel were the oldest of six siblings. “We haven’t read the prologue for the [new] chapter,” she said. They would be taking it “one day at a time.”
In the church, loved ones gave eulogies for the brothers while community members wrapped their arms around one another and listened in the pews. Garcia Macias described the brothers as “sweethearts” who she’ll think about every single day. Veronica Valerio, a former principal at Sylvia Mendez Elementary School, remembered Jazy’s love of reading and the mischievous glint (travieso) in Angel’s eyes when she asked him if he had been an angel that day.
Jazy was the “dad” of the group, Garcia Macias said, often looking out for younger siblings, and hoped to pursue fashion. Angel was a social butterfly, always initiating hangouts with friends, and loved drawing, aiming to be an architect. (Garcia Macias, a college student at Cal State Long Beach, has been studying for midterms while supporting her young cousins, leaving little time for her to grieve.)
Sotelo, the boys’ mother, had always considered her children’s friends to be her own, and a community had grown up around her family home. At the funeral, that community came out in full force, serving hot chocolate and conchas and passing out homemade t-shirts decorated with Angel and Jazy’s faces encircled in a heart. During the service, a band played Spanish praise songs on the guitar.
Between embraces from loved ones, Sotelo said the last few weeks had been difficult. One of her children had started going to therapy, and she planned for the whole family to begin getting mental health care, too. A friend of the family, Ryan Hunt, whose son’s best friend was Jazy, said many teenagers have been having a hard time, too. From the Latino community, there has been a push to make more bilingual, culturally responsive counseling available in schools in the wake of the tragedy.
During his sermon, Rev. John C. Prochasko said that the pain of losing Jazy and Angel would last for the rest of their lives, but, little by little, the family could find solace, especially in community.
“In life and in death, y para siempre, they show us how we should be,” Aarón Lechuga, a counselor at Longfellow Middle School, said in his eulogy, while Garcia Macias, a former student, hugged him in tears. Lechuga has been a pillar of support for the family for years, and especially so since the brothers’ deaths.
“We try to make sense of things. It’s just hard and it hurts, but if we use their life and the love we have for them as an opportunity to be kinder and to appreciate the time we have with each other and to love each other, it’s so powerful to see.”
Adam Solorzano, a graduate student at UC Berkeley’s Journalism School, contributed reporting to this story.