Maite Rodriguez: Uvalde victim identified by her green Converse who is inspiring Matthew McConaughey to act

Slain youngster wanted to be a marine biologist

Josh Marcus
San Francisco
Wednesday 08 June 2022 03:36 BST
Matthew McConaughey pounds White House podium in anger over Uvalde massacre
Leer en Español

Support truly
independent journalism

Our mission is to deliver unbiased, fact-based reporting that holds power to account and exposes the truth.

Whether $5 or $50, every contribution counts.

Support us to deliver journalism without an agenda.

Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas


Maite Yuleana Rodriguez, one of the 19 students killed in the May mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, always wore green, high-top Converse sneakers.

Matthew McConaughey, an Uvalde native, brought a similar pair of sneakers with him to the White House on Tuesday, using them as a pointed call to action to leaders in Washington to “make these lives matter” after the horrific shooting by passing new gun laws.

“Maite wore green, high-top Converse with a heart she had hand-drawn on the right toe because they represented her love of nature,” he said.

“These are the same green Converse on her feet that turned out to be the only clear evidence that could identify her after the shooting,” he continued, describing the devastation the Uvalde gunman’s assault rifle wrought inside the classroom. “How about that?”

Texas School Shooting McConaughey
Texas School Shooting McConaughey (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

But the 10-year-old left behind more than just a pair of sneakers. There are memories of a sweet, ambitious girl who dreamed of being a marine biologist. There is devastation in the family and community that knew her. And there are pointed calls from those closest to her, insisting that leaders in Texas and beyond finally do something about the gun violence epidemic plaguing children in the US, who are more likely to die from gunfire than active-duty police and military members combined.

Rodriguez loved the colour green, getting burgers from Whataburger with jalapeños, and watching the animated show Attack on Titan. She was a bright student, honoured for good grades the day of the 24 May shooting, and hoped to one day study biology at Texas A&M University in Corpus Christi.

“This horrific and senseless nightmare that I just can’t seem to wake up from has absolutely crushed and debilitated my life and heart,” her mother Ana wrote on Facebook after the massacre. “The passing of my beautiful daughter has rocked me to my core and I simply cannot wrap my head around what has happened. My deepest condolences to all the families involved.”

Texas School Shooting McConaughey
Texas School Shooting McConaughey (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

“She was sweet, charismatic, loving, caring, loyal, free, ambitious, funny, silly, goal driven and best of all my very best friend!” Ms Rodriguez added. “Her dream to become a marine biologist started in kindergarten.”

The 10-year-old was a gentle child, good with babies and animals, though her mum said the youngster also had a competitive streak and was known to give it her all in PE.

“Maite was a sweet girl and those who know and loved her were blessed with her kind, ambitious, friendly and sweet soul,” read an obituary of the girl.

Ms Rodriguez has said Texas leaders Governor Gregg Abbott are an “absolute embarrassment to Texas” for being unwilling to change gun laws after the “totally predictable” tragedy.

"How can an 18-year-old buy an AR but he cannot buy beer," she told Rolling Stone. "...In my opinion, nobody’s brain is fully developed at the age of 18. You’re still a child, and what would a child do with an AR? I guess we all know now."

Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi honoured Rodriguez with a scholarship in her memory, open to an Uvalde student pursuing marine biology.

A portrait of Maite Yuleana Rodriguez, one of the 19 school children killed in the May, 2022, mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas.
A portrait of Maite Yuleana Rodriguez, one of the 19 school children killed in the May, 2022, mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas. (REK Funerals)

"Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi wanted to honor the memory of Maite Rodriguez after learning of her desire to become an Islander. The university created a scholarship in her name to ensure she will forever be a part of the Islander family,” university president Kelly Miller said last week.

A cousin set up a GoFundMe page for her family, to raise funds as they take time to grieve the loss of “this sweet smart little girl.”

McConaughey likely learned about Rodriguez’s story during a visit at the end of May to Uvalde, his hometown. The actor didn’t publicise the visit, but met with hospital staff and others in the community.

The Texas star, himself a gun owner, has been vocally calling for more gun control after the shooting.

“As you all are aware there was another mass shooting today, this time in my hometown of Uvalde, Texas,” the actor wrote on Twitter on 24 May. “Once again, we have tragically proven that we are failing to be responsible for the rights our freedoms grant us.”

“We cannot exhale once again, make excuses, and accept these tragic realities as the status quo,” he added.

Like Rodriguez’s mother, McConaughey says an 18-year-old shouldn’t be allowed to purchase an assault rifle, calling it a “reasonable, practical, tactical” regulation.

“We need to raise the minimum age to purchase an AR-15 rifle to 21,” the actor said at the White House. “We need a waiting period for those rifles. We need red flag laws and consequences for those who abuse them.”

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in