Un Dia Sin Immigrantes (A Day Without Immigrants)
In the wee hours of the morning, a handful of people gathered on the southside of Highway 92. Waving mostly American flags and holding signs with slogans such as "No Human Is Illegal", "Dignity For All" and "We Are America", the small sleepy crowd grew in number and enthusiasm as dawn gave way to an uncharacteristicly sun-drenched day on the Coast and the morning commute drug on. It soon became apparent that the day would be no ordinary one.
Practically everyone heading over the hill from the Coast Monday morning saw it. Perhaps traffic slowed a tiny bit because of it. Yet few seemed to mind. It was "Un Dia Sin Immigrantes", (A Day Without Immigrants), a national day of boycott and action to celebrate the contributions immigrants make to American society. While thousands gathered in major metropolitan areas nationwide, immigrants and supporters in Half Moon Bay also served as a reminder that we are a nation of immigrants. What the local gathering lacked in numbers compared with the events in big cities, it more than made up for in heart with a pleasant mix of love for their new country and pride in the culture from where they came.
"I love America," protestor Martin said, holding a flag from his adopted country. "That’s why I raising my family here." He and his young daughter were just two faces in the tapestry that made up the morning rally…young and old…men and women…Mexican and "gringo"...citizens, legal residents and undocumented.
It was a sight to behold! A transformation was taking place. In front of the entire coastside, thousands of whom expressed their support through smiles, honks, waves and enthusiastic thumbs up, a community walked out of the shadows in which they had been living and lifted their heads high into the sunlight. The occasional obscene gesture or derogatory comment tossed their way only served to lift spirits higher. "Grab onto that negative energy and turn it into positive," urged one woman.
The protest, organized over the weekend, was scheduled to take place only between 6:30 and 8:30 a.m. As the morning passed, however, the crowd became energized and few wanted to walk away from the moment. Up until 10:30, people were still arriving to lend their support. Over 150 people took part in the organized rally between 6:30 and 10:30, coming and going as their work and family responsibilities dictated. The rally then gave way to a march with several dozen making their way down Main Street to the mostly supportive honks of the downtown traffic. Continuing on Kelly Avenue and then Highway 1, the march picked up more walkers and a police escort.
Isolated by geography, even more so with the recent closure of Devil’s Slide, few would argue that the economy of the San Mateo County coast is not affected by immigrant labor. The local floraculture, agriculture and fishing industries rely on it as does the service industry. If you eat out on the Coast, chances are that your meal was prepared and/or served by somebody from Latin America.
The day culminated in the evening with a 3-hour march with an estimated 500 people taking part. (See story and video by Darin Boville: May Day march in Half Moon Bay)
Kudos to local law enforcement the entire day! They responded to the unfolding events with calm and professionalism even though the marches were spontaneous and a bit unpredictable, making their way through Half Moon Bay with no formal plan or designated route.
Tuesday was business as usual on the Coast but, in the hearts of many local immigrants, the swelling of pride in finding their voice in their new country continues. "My family…we love it here in Half Moon Bay," Jose said. "This is our home."