Immigration march in San Miguel unites ex-pats, locals

Kendal Dodge Butler
Monday, May 1, 2006

© Copyright El Universal-El Universal Online

protesters at an Immigration march in San Miguel

protesters at an Immigration march in San Miguelphoto by Nancy Soles

SAN MIGUEL DE ALLENDE, Guanajuato – Over 1,000 demonstrators took to the cobble-stoned streets of this colonial city on Monday, [May 1, 2006] marching in support of Mexicans living and working north of the border. The demonstrators, both Mexican and from abroad, opposed proposals by U.S. lawmakers that could make being an undocumented immigrant there a felony. Signs in English and Spanish read, “Open borders unite families,” “We´re workers not criminals,” and “The first undeclared immigrant arrived in 1492.” Half-a-dozen young Mexicans lined up with the motto of the day on their T-shirts, Spanish in front, English behind: “No human being is illegal.”

photos by Nancy Soles

The demonstration stopped at the U.S. Consulate, where Mexican marchers handed petitions to Acting Consular Agent Ed Clancy. A number of Americans living in San Miguel have pledged to send a petition decrying the treatment of Mexican migrants in the United States directly to the U.S. Congress.

photos by Nancy Soles

“As citizens of the United States residing in Mexico we are shocked, indeed appalled, at the irrational and inhuman proposals dealing with Mexican migrants in our country,” the petition reads. “It is time that our country treats Mexicans in the United States with the dignity and respect to which they are entitled, as Mexicans here treat us.”   The march then moved on to the Jardín, the town´s main square.

Olivia Canales, a member of Centro Cultural Izquinapan, which organized the event, said Mexico was to blame as much as the United States for the migrants´ situation.   “The Fox government hasn´t reached any kind of migrant worker agreement with the U.S., and it´s not doing anything to generate the jobs the country needs here,” she said.

photo by Nancy Soles

Last year, the state of Guanajuato received an estimated US$1.7 billion share of the US$20 billion in remittances sent home by Mexican migrants in the U.S. Over a third of San Miguel county´s population is said to have left for the United States in the last decade, with so many settling in the Dallas area that the city of San Miguel has funded an outpost for its countrymen there called Casa Sanmiguelense.

Lynette Seator, a poet who lives in San Miguel and has a daughter who´s an immigration lawyer in the States, condemned the proposed wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.   “A wall would be a denial of today´s need, on the one side for employment and on the other for employees,” she said. “Rather than build a wall to separate our countries, let´s invest our energies in tearing down prejudice.”

Monday was the second instance in recent years that the city´s foreign and Mexican residents came together to protest a cause: In 2003 San Miguel residents demonstrated against the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

photos by Nancy Soles

San Miguel, a well-known artists´ community nestled in the central highlands northwest of Mexico City, has received expatriates from the north since the late 40s, when young Americans back from the war took advantage of the GI Bill to study art at the Instituto Allende. Today, thousands of Americans have made San Miguel their permanent home.