A Diez y Seis Report from the Street

Note: the following account is posted by permission of the author who
would like to remind readers that the story was quickly written after
some disappointment with other media reports. It should be considered a
draft.–gm

By Roberto R. Calderon

I attended the Marcha Contra el Racismo / Contra los Minutemen / En
Pro del Dream Act / Y Sixth Annual Austin, Texas 16 de Septiembre
Desfile/Parade, all rolled up into one. Perhaps these were too many
agendas to attach to one single event, perhaps not, but one could make
the argument surely that all of these various agendas are related in
that they have to do with migration, immigration, and in the case at
hand particularly that of Mexicanos and Latinos.

But before I make a few brief comments, let’s describe the
following four newspaper articles, three of which directly discussed
the event in Austin, and the fourth talks about the Minutemen in Tejas,
especially in El Valle and Brownsville, where our gente including the
authorities don’t want them there, present, and they’ve been put on
notice. The four articles are as follows:

1. Notimex, "Se enfrentan racistas e hispanos," El Universal, Mexico, D.F., Lunes 19 de septiembre de 2005, p. 34.

2. Patricia Estrada, "Marchan contra los ‘Minutemen,’" Al Dia, Dallas, Tejas, Lunes, Septiembre 19 de 2005.

3. Dick Stanley, "Annual Mexican Independence Parade Protested," Austin American-Statesman, Sunday, September 18, 2005.

4. Mark Lisheron, "Minutemen’s Arrival Prompts Concerns, Former Group
Leader Warns of Violence," Austin American-Statesman, Austin, Tejas,
Sunday, September 18, 2005.

For starters the Austin American-Statesman’s reporter’s
disinterested article has the numbers all wrong about how many
attendeded the marcha and how many right-wing protesters met us at the
gates to the Capitol grounds.

I should say that I attended the event and documented it by taking
some 260 photographs of the event from beginning to end. I was there,
and I didn’t leave until the last of us left the event. Several of us
who were present discussed the numbers or how many we thought were in
attendance. Between the Austin groups participating in the September
16th Annual Parade, and there were at least two floats, the Fiestas
Patrias Queen riding a car, several low riders, motorcycles, bicycles,
no charros on real horses though, and what not, the Austin crew in
short. Then there were two buses that came, one each from the greater
Dallas and San Antonio areas, and many individuals and families in
cars, trucks, and what not. Then there was another entire contingent of
people who didn’t actually march the two or three miles from the
assembly point at the Texas Department of Transportation’s huge parking
lot at the corner of Riverside Drive and Congress Avenue, to the
beautifully manicured grounds of the Capitol.

It was a beautiful, hot day for a marcha and rally, and we all
sweated generously. The temperature was close to 100 degress Farenheit.
We marched directly north toward the Capitol on Congress Avenue and the
event went off as scheduled and on time. The marcha started at 4 pm,
and the rally began around 5:30 pm and lasted until about 7 pm, when
everyone by then was leaving or had already left. Altogether we
estimated that there were about 1,000 persons in attendance at the peak
of the event which coincided with the first hour of the rally at the
Capitol grounds, on the Southside entrance.

The groups of people along the route of the marcha were mostly
friendly and supportive with many looking long and with interest at the
many contingents and individual participants. There were those who of
course yelled their displeasure, especially some in cars who had been
stopped by Austin City PD on motorbikes to let the marchers walk on
through. Some of these who had to wait at the lights weren’t too
pleased.

The marcha stretched along Congress Avenue for many a quarter of a
mile long at its greatest extension, with lots of room between
contingents. The atmosphere among those who participated in the marcha
and rally was definitely upbeat, celebratory, and full of energy. There
were many families with children at the event, there were many
university and college students at the event. And for many of the
college students, mostly Chicanos/Latinas, this was their first such
marcha and rally.

There were students and others though of course from all kinds of
groups, some blacks, even a few more whites, with the vast majority
present being comprised of raza. University contingents from the
University of Texas at Austin, University of Houston, University of
Texas at Dallas, University of North Texas at Denton, University of
Texas at San Antonio, and other universities and junior colleges also
attended. The students brought out their mantas, their t-shirts, their
youth and ideals.

Also present were several important contingents of Chicano and
Latino organized labor groups including some from the Austin and
Central Texas area, from San Antonio, from Houston, from Dallas, and
from Lubbock pa’ acabarla de fregar–!Si Se Puede! The same could be
said of Chicano/Latino professional associations, like the social
workers’ association that participated with their banner, and the
Centro por los Derechos Humanos out of Dallas, a Salvadoran
organization primarily.

There were specific leaders and politicians that particiapted.
Congressman Lloyd Dogget, D-Austin, spoke first and was followed by
whole host of other excellent speakers, some speaking with great
clarity, and some with great passion.

There were speakers from Arizona and the immigrant rights’
struggles there. Representatives from the League of United Latin
American Citizens (LULAC) particiapted including natioinal president
Hector Flores, who’s from Dallas, he walked the entire length along
with the rest and spoke with great effect at the rally.

There was Jaime Martinez of San Antonio and currently the president
for Texas statewide LACLAA and the annual Cesar Chavez Marcha in that
city as well. There was also Rosa Rosales, the Hatted Lady, as they
call her in San Antonio, a longtime civil rights activist in San Anto
and a longtime member and leader in women’s issues within LULAC.

There was State Representative Roberto R. Alonzo (D-Dallas) who
spoke as well to his credit. There was the only current Mexican
American/Latino on the Austin City Council, Raul Alvarez, who also
spoke forcefully in both Spanish and English. There was Ana
Yanez-Correa, one of the young organizers of the event who spoke with
much clarity and passion both, she is currently involved in efforts to
reform the Texas criminal justice system and has been past Texas LULAC
statewide education director.

There was Julieta Olivarez, her last name may escape me, a student
leader at UT Austin and immigrant who is fighting to have the Dream Act
pass so that she may exercise her profession, she is a registered nurse
and plans to continue her studies and obtaining a master’s in light of
being unable to work in the US. She spoke from a prepared script in
both English and Spanish with much emotion and compassion. Her
statement was moving and powerful. There were any number of men and
women from the different organizations that had attended who also
spoke. There was some music at the prior to and at the end of the
speeches.

At the entrance to the Capitiol grounds off of Congress Avenue
there were aligned some thirty to fifty mostly Anglo males tending
toward middle age rather than on the younger side of things. They held
signs and banners and yelled things like "Keep on marching all the way
south of the border…to Mexico," and "Go back to Mexico," and old
standard as we all know.

Needless to say paranoia runs deep among this crowd, and the media
gave them as much attention as the next person. Ap
parently a local
right-wing talk radio station, 106.6 FM, that had its banner at the
site of the counterdemonstration widely displayed, worked the airwaves
to generate the counterprotest.

Alongside this bunch of screaming white males were ordinary people
who weren’t necessarily white (Latinos and blacks) waiting for buses
and what not, and they applauded and cheered the marchers on, much to
the chagrin of the anti-immigrant bunch with whom they shared the
sidewalk space at the moment. This group of pro-Minutemen whites was by
no means anywhere near to numbering 100, as reported in the short
articles that follow. Clearly, each observer/reporter has his or her
own truth of the matter.

Raza and others in the marcha and rally used many of the standard
civil rights calls including "Si Se Puede!" "La Raza Unida, Jamas Sera
Vencida," "Hey, hey, ho, ho, the Minutemen Have Got to Go," "What Do We
Want? Justice! When Do We Want It? Now!" "Fuera con los Minutemen!"
"Raza Si, Migra No!" A young Chicana university student held a
hand-lettered poster that read: "Who Would Jesus Deport?"

And of course, there were many more slogans, chants, and posters
presented to create the statement that the marchers sought to make not
least among them that one born in the struggles of the Califoria
immigrant rights movement in the 1980s and 1990s if not earlier, "No
Human Being Is Illegal/Ningun Ser Humano Es Ilegal."

While there were definitely many people of all different ages and
current generations, which was definitely another positive contribution
made by the marcha on Saturday (September 17), the majority of the
participants were on the young side, from children to youth currently
enrolled in and/or recently graduated from our state’s colleges and
universities.

The presence of organized labor from all points of the Tejas map
was heartening and another positive contribution made by the marcha
this past Saturday. One can say that many different segments of our
communities were in attendance, from longtime Tejano/Chicano residents
to more newly arrived gente. Similarly there were present more
acculturated and settled longtime immigrant families, leaders and
activists in their own right within their own communities. Mostly the
participants were came from the more urbanized areas of the state.

There were some Chicana/o faculty present that should be mentioned.
From UT Austin there were present Angela Valenzuela and Emilio Zamora,
and their daughters Clara and Luz. Also from UT Austin was
Radio-Television-Film professor Cary Anderson, recently arrived to
Austiin from Kentucky. He assited in documenting, filming, the marcha
and rally.

From UT San Antonio came Rodolfo "Rudy" Rosales with his wife Rosa
Rosales and their son Gabriel. From the University of Houston came
Lorenzo Cano, of the Center for Mexican American Studies there and the
new movimiento newspaper about the state, La Nueva Raza. And there were
other faculty from different campuses that I may not have recognized
but who were working in documenting the event as well. "Civil rights
for all," read the back of one t-shirt raza wore.

The t-shirt of the day, however, was being sold for $10 bucks by a
Chicana university student, never did catch her name or school
affiliation, but she sold out her entire stock. It was a plain white
t-shirt with the word "Minutemen" on front crossed out by a red circle
with a line drawn through it. And on the back was a dictionary like
definition of the word "Min-ute-men. def. Cowards; un-Americans;
domestic terrorists;…" and I can’t recall what other two or more
definitions were provided. Those in attendance liked the item and
bought it up accordingly.

There was lots of creativity, lots of networking, lots of plans for
continuing the struggle for civil rights, which is one and the same as
immigrant rights. This was one of the leading messages. Justice, means
all of us, not Just-Us, as activists have long said at such events
across the Southwest and across the country since at least the 1960s.
There were vague statements heard about there being another marcha
planned in the state and another sometime in 2007 or 2008 in
Washington, D.C. It was all in a day’s work down in Austin this past
weekend. Si Se Puede!

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