Laredo BorderSlam poets held a posthumous tribute to local musician and actor Bob Batey on Thursday at Gallery 201.

At the entrance of the gallery, a photo of Batey smiling with his arms raised welcomed all those who attended. Family members, friends, coworkers and members of the BorderSlam filled the building located at the heart of downtown Laredo. Typically, the group meets two times a month to recite original poetry, and each participant must follow specific rules.

This Thursday was different. There were no judges, no limits on participants or time, and the use of music and accessories were permitted. There was only one condition: the poetry should honor Batey.

After 9 p.m., the tribute began with the screening of a video produced by Sledge TV. It showed Batey on the banks of the Rio Bravo, reciting a poem he wrote titled “On the Streets of Laredo.”

READ MORE: Tributes pour in for Laredo musician, actor Bob Batey dead at 28

Amid applause, tears, hugs and laughter, each poet paid tribute to the musician and actor. The writers recounted the lessons, the advice, the affection, but above all, Batey’s endless devotion to make a positive change in the city.

One of the first poets to recite, Silke Jasso, emphasized the importance of celebrating Batey’s life and remembering the lessons he left to the people who surrounded him.

“He was one of the purest souls on earth, and it’s amazing to see how many people knew that,” Jasso said. “My poem is about the lessons I learned from Bob. He was a special man … One touch of Batey and it was enough to have a positive impact on those that surrounded him.”

Roland Santos, a member of Sledge TV and frequent collaborator with Batey, attended the tribute.

“Tonight’s tribute meant the celebration of a life cut short but lived like no other,” Santos said. “Most of us in here share that same passion for art as Bob did and this serves as a reminder to continue striving for that; to strengthen the scene. Bob would’ve wanted it so.”

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While the poets made use of the microphone inside Gallery 201, some heard the poetry from the area of San Bernardo Avenue in between Hidalgo and Lincoln streets, which stayed closed. Due to the limited capacity of the gallery, dozens of people stayed beneath canopy tents located along the avenue. A speaker placed at the entrance allowed them to listen to what was going on inside.

Another participant, Rebekah Rodriguez, took the floor to share how Batey inspired her and taught her that perfection comes second when things are done with care and generosity.

“His passion was contagious and I don’t think I would’ve gotten this far as a writer without his influence,” Rodriguez said. “Most of all, the poem was a reminder of how he showed me to not do things for the glory or accolades, but to provoke and inspire others into action.”

When all the poets finished reciting, the tribute turned into a vigil on the streets of downtown Laredo, the same streets Batey immortalized in his poem: “On the streets of Laredo where I loved in every way and lost every f*****g day. On the streets of Laredo where I died and I lived within and without.”


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