A Day Without Immigrants
Yesterday, many cities across the Nation had their Day Without Immigrants.
What started as a boycott where several restaurants decided to show their support to the cause, bloomed into a full protests that started at the Austin City Hall and ended at the Capitol. In Austin alone, more than 40 eateries kept their doors shut. Some of those venues took me by surprise as they did not serve any kind of Latin America inspired cuisine. Nonetheless, I was grateful for the support —and then it dawned on me.
These actions reminded me that the word «Immigrant» is not synonym of Mexican; that Mexican is a nationality and not a label to encapsulate almost 20 different nationalities; that when a local pizza joint or an exclusive Japanese sushi bar join the «resistance» is for the same reason I did: we are all immigrants or, unless you are Native American, our roots originated from people that came from some place else.
I decided to attend the protest at the last minute. Not for lack of interest, more because it was complicated to get the details right.
- «Is it a boycott?»
- «Are we supposed to just stay home?»
- «Oh, there's a walk to the Capitol?»
- «At what time is starting?»
- «Are we supposed to stay home and not consume?»
I am not a so-called «professional protester» to begin with and if you don't use social media, well, your options of getting info are slim. Nevertheless, imitating what I'm seeing women do, I persisted. I texted my oldest daughter (Nadja) who goes to Texas State in San Marcos. She was thrilled for the boycott, but unfortunately, she said, «I can't afford not to go to work.» That was my second sign. Now, I needed to go. I was not doing it for me. I wanted to represent her too and others that weren't as lucky as I am to work in a place that understand the value of it. Then I thought of bringing my youngest one (Luba) to the march. She attended the Women's March last month and it would've been a great learning experience but, once more, the current social weather made me think twice and so, she went to school.
At the City Hall things started slow. When I arrived there were maybe around 50 people or so, lots of media, law enforcement. The event could've used a bit more leadership, it looked a little disorganized at first. I noticed the miscommunication as some people were talking in Spanish but there were other protesters also who didn't speak the language. Again, little things. The atmosphere wasn't truly chaotic, it just took some time to warm up the crowd. But once the instructions were given and the chants started around 11am, the gears of this machine started to roll.
By the time we reached Congress Street, I noticed the crowd had grown and it continue to do so as we progress on our way to the Capitol. It was like those scenes you see in movies where people just join the crowd impromptu to represent. I saw people on the street waving, some taking pictures from the buildings up above, cars using their horns to display their allegiance. I did also hear someone cursing the crowd with the not-so-nice 'F' word but overall the march ended the way it started: peacefully.
Austin PD escorted the crow, assisted by closing streets and whether they liked it or not, they were respectful and so the crowd was too. The chants were fun and catchy, some of the ones that stuck with me were:
- «Say it loud, say it clear... immigrants are welcome here.»
- «Show me what democracy looks like... this is what democracy looks like.»
- «ICE out of Austin!»
- «Trump escucha: estamos en la lucha.» (Trump, listen: we are in the fight!) | <-- my personal favorite.
The end of the line was the Capitol and by the time we reached it, I could tell that the dozens of protesters that started at the City Hall, somehow multiplied into hundreds. It was a significant crowd that shared one idea. I thought about the ones who didn't come because they didn't know or because they feared that ICE would retaliate. I also remember the last time I ended up there, not so long ago. For someone who is not a «professional protester», this year has seen me march twice, and we are just in February.
Last night, I watched a documentary that reminded me that peaceful protests have changed minds and even governments (like Iceland and Tunisia to name two) without shedding any blood. We've seen protest going around that already have had some impact when it comes to defend our social liberties.
Bottom line is I am an immigrant. My life may be different from a lot of the people I saw yesterday (everyone's life is different) but we shared a common ground. My voice may have been lost in the crowd, my presence in the protest (or absence at work) didn't change a thing in the grand scheme of things. Maybe people didn't miss me at my workplace (some emails tell me some did ;)). But by being there, I did something for me, for my daughters, for the people that weren't there, for the ones that were scared or could't because they can't afford to lose a job and for all the ones that share this commonality. I added myself to the collective mind and I never felt so safe bring surrounded by like-minded individuals.
I added my self and shared my voice to the protest, I participated in the Day Without Immigrants because this country inspires me to stand for what is right and so I did.