Mercedez Marisol Flores, 26, never took a moment for granted. When she wasn't at school or work, she was spending time with her friends and family, enjoying all the things life had to offer.
Flores was out dancing with her best friend, Amanda Alvear, on June 12, 2016, when they were fatally shot at Pulse nightclub.
Her brother, Cesar Flores, said people were drawn to his sister’s positive energy and her love for her friends and family.
“She was going to college and full of life. She had a bright future ahead of her,” Cesar Flores said. “Young, talented young girl, smart, friendly. She had tons of friends.”
Mercedez Flores lived with her family in Davenport and worked at a nearby Target to help pay to attend Valencia College, where she studied literature. Her ultimate plan was to get involved in the entertainment industry as a party planner and settle down in the Big Apple.
“She was looking forward to moving back to New York. She always said she was going to conquer New York,” Cesar Flores said.
Mercedez Flores was born in the Bronx and spent her early years there until her father relocated the family to Florida when she was a child. The Floreses are originally from Guatemala and Mercedez Flores was the first to be born in the United States.
She loved music and traveling and always supported her friends in their artistic endeavors.
“Her favorite music was dance music, house music. That’s what I played when she was a baby. That’s all she heard,” Cesar Flores said.
Cesar Flores was 15 when his sister was born on April 21, 1990 and he often helped take care of her. When Cesar Flores started his own family, his sister was there to spend time with her three nieces – reading to them, combing their hair, picking them up from the bus stop and taking them to get ice cream.
“She took care of my oldest daughter like the way I took care of her when she was a little kid,” Cesar Flores said. “It was her way of paying me back for everything I did for her.”
He said Mercedez Flores tended to have maternal instincts, which meant making sure anyone around her knew they were loved and accepted. He said she was an ally for members of the LGBT community.
“She felt like they needed love. She felt like a big sister, like a big mother to them. All her friends were there (at Pulse), her close friends, her real friends, people who showed her love,” Cesar Flores said.
For her last birthday, Mercedez Flores gathered all her friends and family to celebrate at a restaurant on International Drive. Cesar Flores said that was the last time they were all together and he’s thankful they had that experience before her death.
“It was a beautiful night, those are the memories we have of her. Her smile, her laughter, her jokes with her friends, she was just so full of life,” Cesar Flores said.
He said gatherings like that one prove that Mercedez Flores lived her life to the fullest.
“I feel in a way, she knew she was going to have a short life and made the most of it,” Cesar Flores said.
More than a dozen members of the Flores family will gather again in June, when they plan to fly to Guatemala to visit Mercedez’s grave as they mark one year since the shooting.
“We all want to be down there. We want to be together down there. We want to be there with her,” Cesar Flores said.
Cesar Flores said life hasn’t been the same without his baby sister, the only silver lining is that her death brought the family closer together. He also said he's grateful for the support the family has received from the Orlando community and beyond.
“That’s one of the things that she did for us: She brought my parents closer, she brought me closer to my brother,” Cesar Flores said. “We spend our weekends together now and we cherish every moment we can. We always have her on her mind. We always think about her. Not a day goes by that we don’t talk about her.”