Family, friends, and co-workers are mourning the loss of Arturo Angel Barrios, a GCC bookstore employee and musician who took his own life July 14 in Echo Park. He was 20.
Barrios was born on April 15, 1982, in Mexico City. There he attended elementary and junior high school. His family later moved to California where Barrios lived in Santa Ana with his mother and father, then in Echo Park with his aunt, Patricia Barrios.
Barrios played guitar for the New Harvest Christian Fellowship Church in South L.A., where he performed with the church band, “211.” In addition to spreading the word of God through his music, he also preached and performed in church plays, and in high school, preached the gospel.
What friends remember most about Barrios was his music and his profound caring for those around him.
His music was his “backbone,” said close friend Manuel Bracamonte, who met Barrios when he was 17. He would play his pride and joy, his “girl” as Bracamonte said he referred to his guitar almost constantly. According to Bracamonte and another close friend and co-worker, Misael Sosa, Barrios was in the process of saving enough money to purchase studio equipment and attend classes at GCC.
“He basically wanted to build his own little studio,” said Sosa.
Barrios would play his guitar on his front porch or at times be singing a tune in the bookstore.
“If he had the guitar, he would sing with the guitar,” said friend and co-worker Eriel Albarran. “He loved his music.”
“His music was his stress reliever,” said Bracamonte. “It?s what made him keep dreaming.”
His idol was guitarist Carlos Santana, and his musical tastes held an appreciation for the oldies.
“He was real cool,” said Bracamonte. “He got along with everybody. Customers would come back and ask for him and say, ‘I want this gentleman [Barrios] to help me.’ No matter what he was going through, he always had a good heart.”
Bookstore Director Anjali Stanislaus remembered Barrios as having a great respect for those he worked with. He even called his superiors sir or ma’m.
“He was just a fantastic individual,” said Stanislaus.
And, according to Sosa, he was the only worker that never worked the cash register. He was so great with people that having him at the cash register would have been a waste, says Stanislaus.
“He would bend over backwards to find a product that was needed,” said Stanislaus. “I never saw him come in with a long face.”
Bracamonte was among a group of friends whose music was about freedom of expression and the desire to tell their feelings.
As for anything creative that may come out of Barrios’ death, Bracamonte said that it is a possibility. All of Barrios’ music revolved around a poetic instinct to write about the feelings of the heart, he said.
Had Barrios’ method of death held some explanation or pointed at someone to blame, it might be much easier to accept, explains Sosa, who has known Barrios since 2001. In this case, however, there is nothing like that. Thus, for the people that knew Barrios, there will be no sense of closure.
“There is no way to deal with the sorrow,” said Stanislaus. “There is no explanation. We didn?t see anything. We didn?t notice anything. There are no answers.
“I don’t know what it was,” said Barrios? father, Raul Barrios. “I don?t know what it was that drove my son to do something like this.”
“We’ve lost an angel in the city of angels,” said Bracamonte.
Funeral services for Barrios were held at Rose Hills Memorial Park in Whittier on July 19, and all burial expenses for Barrios’ funeral came from bookstore staff, food sales and donations from Associated Students.
A memorial scholarship in music for GCC music students in Barrios’ name will be created, and a memorial tree, pending the approval of the campus committee in October, will be planted on campus.
His co-workers and his boss agree, as the fall rush approaches and thousands of students converge on the bookstore to purchase their books, Barrios will be looking down on his friends with a smile on his face.