Gloria Estefan Sits Down With Vanessa Guillén’s Family to Shine Light on Her Gruesome Murder


'Red Table Talk: The Estefans' devote their fourth episode to U.S. army soldier Vanessa Guillén.

At the top of the latest episode of Red Table Talk: The Estefans, Gloria Estefan set the tone for what followed: “The story you’re about to hear will shake you to your core.” 

After taking on divorce, coming out and mental health, the Estefans -- including Gloria, her daughter, Emily, and her niece, Lili -- devoted their fourth episode to the ongoing story surrounding U.S. army soldier Vanessa Guillén. As Guillén’s mother, Gloria, tearfully explains at the Estefans’ home, her 20-year-old daughter first went missing back in April 2020 while stationed at Fort Hood, Texas. This was weeks after she had told her mother that she was being sexually harassed by fellow soldiers. 

Guillén’s disappearance, and the Army’s inaction that followed, made Gloria Guillén and her two daughters, Mayra and Lupe, turn to the press and to the streets to demand answers and justice. When her remains were found in late June, her alleged attacker (a fellow soldier) fled the base and shot himself when law enforcement attempted to apprehend him. That left the family with even more unknowns about what truly took place at Fort Hood and why Vanessa was, in the weeks leading up to her death, so scared and unlike herself.

“I wanted her alive,” Guillén tells Gloria in the episode, in a rare sit-down interview away from the iconic red table. Filled with righteous anger over her daughter’s death, Guillén lays out the many reasons why she remains skeptical of the investigations taking place at Fort Hood (“No les creo nada,” she adds) all the while sharing tender memories of her daughter growing up.

She’s convinced that her daughter’s murder was covered up by the very people who had been tasked with keeping her safe once she began to be vocal about the rampant sexual abuse she allegedly witnessed firsthand at Fort Hood -- and how any reports about it were laughed off by those in charge.

Guillén, who’s turned her anger and grief over Vanessa’s brutal murder into political action, wants to reform what she sees as a broken system of silence that protects abusers within the military at the expense of victims like Vanessa.

“Enough!” she says. “No more jurisdictions. Let it all be broken, and change military history. It will change because of my daughter. Because she died at the hands of the government while serving her country.”

Later, the Estefans were joined by Vanessa’s sisters. Mayra and Lupe, like their mother, became vocal advocates for Vanessa, making #FindVanessaGuillen a trending topic once they realized the only way to pressure authorities to investigate her sister’s disappearance was to rally public outrage.

Their work, though, wasn’t done when Vanessa’s remains were found. They’re still looking for justice, for answers they know they may never get.

“Why would they do this to an innocent person -- kill her, and after she’s killed, do all that stuff to her that I can’t even say… why?” Lupe wonders aloud, in tears. “That’s my question every single day: Why? Why? Why her? I ask God, por qué ella? Por qué ella? De todos los que existimos, por qué ella?”

Finally, the Estefans and the Guilléns are joined by Natalie Khawam, who’s serving as the family’s lawyer and who wants to make sure the “I am Vanessa Guillén” Act of 2020 gets passed. The bipartisan bill sets out to provide survivors independent investigations for both sexual harassment and sexual assault and hopefully create long-lasting cultural change within an institution that, in Khawam’s eyes, has too long turned a blind eye toward these issues.

The act hopes to keep the memory of Vanessa alive. To do so, the Estefans and Khawam urge viewers to reach out to their political representatives and encourage them to vote for the bill.

“I thank you so much because despite your heartache,” Gloria tells the Guillén sisters toward the end of the episode, “you’re turning that pain into something that’s gonna help other women, other men.”

New episodes of Red Table Talk: The Estefans are available on Facebook Watch.