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Members of the South Central Farm attending the immigrant rights march for amnesty in downtown Los Angeles California on May Day, 2006. The banner, in Spanish, reads "No human being is illegal".]1 May 2006Jonathan McIntoshJonathan McIntosh

Members of the South Central Farm attending the immigrant rights march for amnesty in downtown Los Angeles California on May Day, 2006. The banner, in Spanish, reads “No human being is illegal”.]

1 May 2006

Jonathan McIntoshJonathan McIntosh

In 1995, the African American community held what they called the ‘Million Man March.’ That was held in Washington D.C. with several civil rights groups organizing. Which included the NAACP, Louis Farrakhan, and the Nation of Islam. Dr Benjamin Chavis Jr. served as the national director for the march. By now, you may ask, so what does that have to do with the Latino March?

  Pos (so) let me tell you. First, while their march drew an enormous amount of national and local media before, during and after. Which really helped the turnout, to the tune of north of 800,000. This led to a highly successful event and even more positive effect once the leaders and regular folk came back to their local communities. Among the people I knew, I saw a genuine commitment to improve their communities. There seemed to be a real increase in genuine love for self and each other. 

  Having witnessed that, I hoped that people in our community might also have a similar re-awaking. Little did I know then that as early as 1993, Juan Jose Gutierrez executive director of the One Stop Immigration and Education Center in Boyle Heights was planning a National March. It was Mr. Gutierrez’ response to proposition 187, which would deny health and education services for the immigrant population. The proposition was the centerpiece of the re-election campaign of the California Governor Pete Wilson. The March would be a call it to unite all Latinos to rally against immigrant bashing. And all laws and propositions that would impede the progress of the Latino community. To be heard the loudest. And to show the ability to organize nationally as a community, the Latino Unity March was born. Some called it La Marcha, some El Encuentro. The name would become an issue with the media, as I will note on Part Dos. 

  There had been many protests and marches organized in our respective cites, Pero (but) nationally? That was next level, something that few in our community had experience with other than maybe attending with other groups. In fact,this would be the first National Latino March, to be held in D.C. Of major concern for the march is that it got very little media attention until two weeks before the event. I only heard about it maybe a month before the event, which forced us into a mad planning rush. Foremost was raising money to take our council members, both adults and youth to event. The day arrived quickly and early, around 4.00am; I left my home with my wife and a couple of our adult council members. We then started picking up youth members in East Fort Worth. Last stop was Northside High School, where we picked up six or seven students more students and one last adult member. Our transportation that day was a 15-passenger rented van and my Ford Explorer. Flying would have been great, but the number of people going would have been greatly reduced.

  So off we went. I was driving the van, and my wife was driving our explorer. We were 15 hearty souls hoping to join other kindred spirts. Some slept, both adults and youth listened to music, singing along mostly off-key. Somewhere along the way, Luis took over the van, and I joined my wife and drove our explorer. Our vehicles had our LULAC council number written on it and our city on our back windows with white shoe sign. We were hoping to see other fellow March travelers along the way, but not much luck there.

  In 1996, Mexicanos or any other Latinos were not as prevalent in some states that we traveled through. So, at all our stops along the way, it seemed like we were an immediate source of curiosity. It felt to me like we were part of some Mexican circus that drew stares from the locals. And finally, in Kentucky a server asked us “Are you’ll like Mexicans or Indians and where you are going” The question took us back a little, but I realized at was an honest question. Perhaps it should have been worded better, even so rather than being upset over it. Maybe this would be an opportunity to educate. So, we shared who we were, where from, and where we were going. No, we are not from a Native American reservation, and we are not from Mexico. To keep simple, we just we are Mexican Americans from Fort Worth and to be clear that’s in America. It still puzzles me that many people think that if you are of Mexican descent you’ not American. Frequently, I have people persist after asking where I am from, and I tell them. They say “No where are you really from’ Pero (but) that’s another story.

End Part 1, Part Dos on next Weekender  or request by email @albertogovea@amigosnbusiness.com  to read Thousands Gather in D.C.   

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