What follows is my recollection of an event that occurred in early April 2006, and is the sort of thing I would have posted, had I been posting stories back then. It tells of the Dallas “Mega Marcha” response to House Bill HR4437, a piece of (anti)immigration legislation.
So, when Jesus H. Christ walked out the front door of a building named after his mother, looked right at me, and gave me the Chicano Power sign, atheist or not, I had to acknowledge it, and I power-signed back, to him and all the palm-waving Passion Play-ers standing on the front steps of Our Lady of Guadalupe cathedral in downtown Dallas. The crowd around me roared “Viva La Raza” as we marched past. Responding to text messages, phone-call-chains, posts on message boards, and word-of-mouth, countless Latino immigrants and their descendants filled the downtown area.
We may not agree on much, but threatening to bust nuns who give water to strangers or threatening to deport grandma is enough anger any of us. I, who think most protests are no longer effective tools for positive change, was moved to join in by a talk radio jerk calling for the burning of Mexican flags. “There are people in this nation”, I thought, “who need to know who they’re messing with”; discussion over.
Most messages said to wear white, to symbolize the peaceful intent of the march, and US flags, to symbolize that Latinos are part of American life. There was a lot of Tommy Hillfiger on display, along with custom-airbrushed lowrider-style t-shirts made just for the occasion. There were Norteños with their straw hats, elaborate belts, and boots. There were young toughs wearing athletic gear from high schools far outside the Metroplex. There where entire families with children, with babies, dressed as if they were going to have their portrait taken at Sears.
There was an old woman, who didn’t even reach my shoulder, brown as coffee beans, with a thick silver and black braid that dropped past her waist, whose bird-thin fingers held the massive biceps of two young men that supported and escorted her, tiny step by tiny step, like a queen, while two more protected her at point and rear. There was an old man in a walker, exhausted yet unstoppable, with a look of the Mexican penitents who climb hills and circle monasteries, all on their knees. There were men in work pants and boots, with signs reading “Dallas housing boom? Who built YOUR house?”, “Who built this city?”, and “Quiero papel” (loose translation: I want to be a documented worker). Several women carried holy banners, like Roman standards with crosses instead of eagles, that held the elaborately embroidered images of the Virgin Mary, Saint Lourdes, and others.
Along the route, I saw kids on top of their cars waving Dominican, Ecuadorian, Argentine, Colombian, Peruvian, and Mexican Flags. Maids came out of their hotels. The odd non-Latin student in a Che Guevara t-shirt appeared. Cowboy-cops on horseback blocked us from the tourist zone and private security guards practiced their tough guy look as we passed high-end stores. Downtown dwellers power-signed us from their rooftops. At least five helicopters with cameras circled the city center. I wondered how good their facial recognition software was, and if the video would be compared to with the photos police took of everyone on the trains that brought demonstrators downtown.
The general plan had been to start at the cathedral, circle downtown, and end up at City Hall. Somewhere near the big turn at the tourist zone, things became fragmented, and huge columns moved down multiple streets back to City Hall. A sea of humanity ended auto traffic for a good chunk of the afternoon. At the end, I couldn’t even get close enough to whatever stage or dais had been set up to hear what was being said. I only caught a few lines of Neil Diamond’s “They Come to America”. I called it a day, forsook transportation, and just walked home.
What happens next? Along the march I heard talk of boycotting the patron companies of any Senator or Rep who votes for any law akin to House Bill HR4437, of a nation-wide work stoppage in May, of retributive actions with concrete consequences. Being a bottom-up, almost leaderless “movement”, this happened as two separate events in Dallas and Fort Worth, a day ahead of when most groups planned their demonstrations. Oh well. On the plus side, arresting LULAC won’t stop this, bribing the Council for La Raza won’t stop this, and killing any real or media-appointed “leader” won’t stop this either.
‘Till later. We are living in interesting times. Start practicing your “He was such a nice quiet man” speech now.
“The ultimate rulers of our democracy are not a president
and senators and congressmen and government officials,
but the voters of this country.”
—Franklin Delano Roosevelt