People around the globe demonstrated and marched for workers rights on Monday in celebration of International Workers Day. In Albuquerque, hundreds gathered in Tiguex Park. The rally highlighted how education, labor and immigrant rights are entwined in New Mexico.
Organizer Daniel Vega's speech was centered on a theme of unity. "Our communities and families demand and deserve to be respected and to live without fear," he said.
Speakers at the May Day event talked about political attacks on immigrants and refugees and how they harm families in New Mexico. A strong showing by the local teacher’s union underscored the message that a healthy public school system matters.
Ellen Bernstein, president of the Albuquerque Teacher’s Federation, said schools have to be respectful and welcoming places for everyone, and that public school must be funded for there to be an equitable society. "The current Trump and Martinez administrations, they don’t want thinking people," she said. "They want to make sure we can’t decipher their coded messages of bigotry and racism. But we don’t buy it."
More than 100 businesses around Albuquerque closed their doors as part of the national strike. But it wasn’t all politics. Some of the city’s top musicians and dancers performed for the hundreds of workers and their families lounging in the grass. Vendors pushed paleta carts.
Kharlos Panterra owns a landscaping and gardening business. "I think that the country has lost its perspective as far as valuing workers and labor itself," he said.
He said people with big money pit immigrants and other workers against one another, even though they have lots in common. "A lot of the people that are anti-immigrant rights or anti-immigrant, also don’t want to pay a fair wage to the people that are here," he said, "whether they’re documented or not."
Andrew Gutierrez is the vice president of the baker’s union and said he felt a lot of pride celebrating workers at the rally. "We got to be union strong," he said. For him, immigrant rights are inseparable from workers rights. "Most of our members here at the Local 351 are immigrants. A lot of them are Mexican nationals. A lot of people from Colombia. A lot of our members are immigrants. And so here locally, it affects us directly."
Dalia Medina-Bustillos walked through the rally in her graduation cap and gown, holding an orange posterboard sign. "It says: I am DACA. I have a master’s degree. And I am here to stay."
She moved to the U.S. from Mexico City when she was 9-years-old and graduated last year with a master’s degree in clinical social work. She said it was partially fear that brought her out to the rally, "because I know that even with DACA status, I am in danger of being deported," she said. "So I feel like I need to come out of the shadows so the rest of my dreamer fellows can come out of the shadows and we can stand together to fight for our rights because this is our country. This is where we grew up."
But it's risky to be visible right now, she said.
Antoinette Sedillo Lopez, who’s running for Congress, said parts of her family go back 14 generations in New Mexico. And other parts immigrated here more recently. "New Mexico would have lost its culture—it would have lost the Spanish language—if we didn’t constantly have immigrants coming in and refreshing our culture."
Sedillo Lopez said New Mexico has thrived because of immigration—not despite it.