In honor of tomorrow's marches … and the man
Marching for Human Rights: A Personal Account of a Pueblo Presente
Mon Apr 10th, 2006
The day dawned sunny and cool, perfect marching weather!
Thanks to the success of Saturday's Incitement Constitutional, our group, including my own descendants, neighbors, friends, and their descendants, had swelled to over a thousand souls, representing all the world's continents. I will not try to say how many countries, or name them, suffice it to say that we were diverse. And so numerous, that when the hour of departure came, we were obliged to call upon the good offices of the local popo, to guide our massive convoy out of the neighborhood and on to the highway for the short ride to the gathering place.
A gathering place which, it turned out, was too small to accomodate the crowds which overflowed it, and they spilled out into the streets, streets which had not been intended to be "blocked off," but this was done de facto, and after the facto, the popo sighed and put up their cones, and stationed their cars, and the crowd grew more, and the cars had to be moved. And again. And again, as the people continued to arrive
In clumps, then streams, then rivers, then waves, the gente came. All dressed in white, from all directions, they converged. I was obliged to put on my sunglasses, so blindingly brilliant was the sea of white, as far as even those with very good eyes assured me they could see, and which my own eyes confirmed with the aid of binoculars.
Many did carry US flags, but many carried flags of other nations, and one creative young lady carried a long pole from which waved mini-flags of several dozen countries.
Some people had driven all night, from little villages in the surrounding area, and bore huge banners of the Virgen de Guadalupe emblazoned with the names of the little townlets. Several banners contained exhortations to vote NO on a draconian local hate law, and there were plenty of the now familiar "We are not criminals," and "We have a dream today," etc.
Those who had not heard about the white clothing plan were pleased to find no small number of what I imagined were wily and enterprising young folks selling white t-shirts with a variety of appropriate slogans and images, and these vendors did a thriving business, even among those already clad in white, including a descendant and his little friend from Mexico. The latter was quite taken with a shirt featuring the head of the Statue of Liberty over the words "Liberty for Immigrants."
"You can't have that shirt, objected the descendant. You are not an immigrant, you are a migrant. My mom and dad are immigrants, though, so I will have two, one for me and one for my sister. You should have this one," pointing to one that said simply "Human Rights for all Humans."
Carefully counting out his dollars for the three shirts. He smiled at the vendor, who wore a baseball cap adorned with the Mexican eagle and tricolor. "You are a migrant, too!" he exclaimed. "Thank you for letting my mom and dad be immigrants in your country."
He received a hug and kiss from the visibly moved matron, who refused payment for the shirts.
"No charge, what you say me worth more than shirts."
Also for sale were bottles of water, and to the delight of the younger descendants, pan dulce. An interesting thing we noticed, while usually items sold at large events are marked up a bit past the normal retail price, the prices of everything at the march, from shirts to white ribbons for peace, flags, snacks, baseball caps proclaiming that the wearer was "Hecho en Mexico," were all extremely low.
An adult descendant questioned a march "comite" worker about this.
"Nobody make profit, sell at cost, and much donate, so they divide up only cost of things and gas, that what you pay." Thus t-shirts were no more than five dollars, in most cases two or three, a bottle of water went for a quarter, and pan dulce for a dime.
We also saw people giving away water and pan de coco free of charge, and a few "vendors" who merely had boxes or jars marked "Donations."
While the majority of the crowd were clearly Latin Americans, I was very pleased to note a respectable number of people from Asia, Africa, and a sizeable gaggle led by a large banner inscribed "Croatia Love the Rights and Justice."
The "police presence" was quite discreet. As we arrived very early, we were a bit alarmed to see a group of SWAT teams disembark from their vehicles to deploy themselves, but as the morning unfolded, it became clear that the intention of the popo, at least on this day, was not to provoke, but to help, and on several occeasions, whenever a "counter-demonstrator" would unfurl his "Close the Borders" or some such banner, immediately a handful of uniformed gunmen would appear as if by magic, and escort him off to the area designated for the "other side."
One family had made a rather bad choice, and brought along with them a very expectant mother, to whom the expected commenced to occur, and again, as if by magic, the SWAT team that had made me so nervous appeared, one of them carrying a very ugly yellow upholstered chair, expropriated, I presume from a waiting room in the professional wing of the mall, and helped her into it as the rest of the SWATsters formed a cordon around her, and summoned the appropriate emergency vehicle, which somehow made it through the by this time packed crowd, she was installed into it, and dispatched to the closest hospital, which was mercifully quite close. From the gossip we heard that she made it to the delivery room, but barely, and named her little girl "Dignidad," in honor of the title given to April 10 as the Day of Dignity and Action.
I am proud to report that thanks to the help of you all, the DuctapeFatwa family had the most original and interesting signs, there may have been a suggestion that did not make its way, along with small and sticky chocolate fingerprints, to a piece of foam board, but if there was, it was the exception.
Aside from those carried by our own group, one of the best signs I saw was carried by two small but sturdy young men, it was a slab of sheet rock, with a simple outline of a house, and the neatly printed words:
"WE BUILD YOUR HOMES"
As it turned out, the sign I carried was not made of foam board, but bore a more compelling and eloquent message than any words could convey. There had been some discussion on the question of whether the very newest descendant and her mother should attend the march at all, this particular descendant being so very new, but his mother quite rightly had the last word, and her last word was that she could think of no better choice for her daughter's first outing, she shall attend the march, she decreed, in the arms of our ancestor.
The original plan, some of you may remember was that Madame and I would march only a little way, then ride to the march's destination in an automobile, and await the rest of the marchers there.
We had identified a small side street near enough to the starting point to suit our purposes, and there we planned to station a vehicle and a couple of descendants. We had, we thought, planned everything.
So we arranged our white-clad selves, as planned, with Madame and myself at the front, with the youngest descendants, then behind them their parents, their parents behind them, and so on, and thus it was that with my tiny, precious bundle of a sign, my great great great granddaughter, in my arms, and surrounded by an impressive army of variously toddling, hopping, skipping, and delightedly squealing diminuitive descendants, I led my family as we marched forth, for human rights.
We did not march forth very far, however, for the one thing for which we had not planned, nor even forseen, was the sheer immensity of the crowd, those streams that became rivers, that became a sea, became a tidal wave of humanity, that closed major thoroughfares and brought a sizeable chunk of a sizeable city to a halt, traffic-wise.
The route of the march, a distance of some two or three miles, was almost instantly filled and overflowed, from starting point to destination, and still the people came. They came from the north, to the destination. They came from the south, to the starting point. And they kept on coming.
The march quickly morphed itself into a standing, whistling, cheering vastness of human beings. Unable to march, either forth or back nor in any direction, we stood where we were and represented.
"Se oye! Se siente! El pueblo esta presente!"
"Bush! Escucha! La gente esta de lucha!"
"Si se puede!"
We, of course, were not the only family group, and having registered our presence, as the crowd continued to grow, those of us with infants and elders began to consider the logistics of an early exit.
How, we wondered, would we manage to move ourselves out of a crowd already so tightly packed that movement was impossible, and becoming more so by the minute?
We were not to wonder long. March workers appeared from nowhere and passed the word down to make a way, and the crowd made a way out of no way, and we, along with a goodly number of other families, made our way through the miraculous parting, to applause and cheers. "There goes the future!" they shouted, as the mothers and fathers pushing perambulators and carrying babies, in arms, on shoulders, and in several cases, still in mothers, began our second march, making our exit, to leave the afternoon to the young folks and the various local politicians and clerics who were to speak, though only a fraction of the crowd would hear them, the assembly now filling such a large area that the distance between speakers' podium and much of the would-be audience was now literally measured in miles.
And as they cheered for the future, they cheered also for the past still present, squashing themselves back further to make room for abuelitas and abuelitos, leaning on the strong arms of descendants, many dressed in the white version of the traditional garb of their various tribes. For them, the simple and heartfelt shout: "Gracias."
And yes, they also cheered this grizzled old terrorist, and the precious sign I carried, the future, and the six-generation swarm I led out, "Viva la familia!"
"Where are you parked?" asked a young lady in a chauffeur's cap, when we finally reached a gap breathable enough so that "making a way" for us was no longer necessary. She was a driver of one of many buses donated for the day by private bus companies. "The speeches will go on for a while," she said. "We can take you back to your car."
We accepted gratefully, and so received the VIP treatment for the short distance to our own convoy, a distance which I confess that by this time, my feet did not consider to be so short, though of course I would never have admitted it. "Thank you for this kindness," I told her. "I think some of the children are getting a little tired."
If she perceived that none of the children appeared tired in the least, being a young woman of good breeding and exemplary tact, she smilingly agreed that it would be quite a walk for them, after the morning's excitement, and excorted Madame and myself to the "Executive" bus, and installed us into the most luxurious of its seats, having dispatched her colleagues to assist the rest of the family in boarding the rest of her small fleet, which we filled to capacity, even with a generous amount of lap-sitting.
Though by this time all the surrounding streets were closed to vehicular traffic, a few telephone conversations in very rapid Spanish caused the popo to gesture that they were open to her buses, and we rolled out, and amid continued cell phone communications between our benefactor, and presumably the popo, we arrived at our destination and disembarked, presenting her as a thank you gesture with our leftover water and provisions, and made our way home without incident.
"Do you think she thought we were dignitaries of some kind?" wondered a granddaughter.
"We are," I replied, sinking thankfully onto a comfortable array of pillows.
"Well," reflected Madame, "we had planned to march only a little way, and that is what we did."
you are missed …… but your words and spirit live on … and it was an honor to have "marched a little way with you" my friend ... Allah Hafiz