Wednesday, May 03, 2006
A Sea of White
I spent last weekend and most of May Day working my brains out on a corporate presentation that a British telecommunications company was giving to a Philippines mobile phone company, and halfway through my research, I realized that the project was a bit like "bringing coals to Newcastle," since the Filipinos seemed to be so much more sophisticated about cell phones than the West.
Possibly because they had such crappy phone service for most of the twentieth century, the Philippines have embraced cell phones with insane exuberance and become the "fastest thumbs in the world," text-messaging each other for everything from teenage dates to assembling in central squares and toppling a government. They also have been inventing amazing new ways to use the devices that are about ten steps ahead of everybody else in the world.
In other words, we're in a Brave New World, and the huge May Day immigrant marches throughout the United States are yet another indicator of that shift.
Though the San Francisco Chronicle put the mostly Hispanic crowd at San Francisco's Civic Center at 30,000, in truth there were over 100,000 people coming in and out of the square all day.
Many of them were wearing T-shirts with American flags on the front and "Un Dia Sin Inmigrantes (A Day Without Immigrants)" on the back.
Why did nobody tell me to wear white?
The appropriation of the US flag by the marchers was fascinating since its meaning seemed to be so different than the usual divide of leftist peace protest marchers and right-wing America-Uber-Alles patriots.
There was also some pointed political signage such as this piece pointing out the irony of the United States being sanctimonious about borders after it has invaded so many other countries' borders in the last century (not to mention stealing the Southwest from Mexico not all that ago).
There was also a poster in Spanish accusing the Bush & Company of being "Wanted for Multiple Murders."
These schoolgirls were holding a homemade sign commemorating the recent teen martyr Anthony Soltero. He was an [American-born] Hispanic 14-year-old in Ontario, Southern California who committed suicide in April with his father's shotgun after being outrageously harassed and threatened by school administration thugs who were after him for being a "ringleader" in an earlier student walkout during the Los Angeles immigration protests.
Also being commemorated was Santos Reyes, one of the more egregious examples of California three-strike sentencing gone amok. Mr. Reyes was sentenced to 26 years in prison after taking a driver's test in place of an illiterate cousin after being busted for two non-violent robberies in his teen years 13 years ago.
One thing about this rally that unfortunately was no different than most political rallies in Civic Center: too many boring speeches (in Spanish) preaching to the already converted.
The large crowd on the Polk Street steps of City Hall had a better idea.
They were listening to a sound system that was blaring Mexican pop music.
As usual, the police presence at the event was grotesque in relation to the peacefulness of the crowd.
It was hard to find an open restaurant to grab lunch, because somehow over the last decade every kitchen in California seems to be staffed by Mexicans, no matter what type of food is being cooked, while gringos tend to populate the front of the house positions.
For once, though, the Children's Playground in Civic Center Plaza was charmingly filled to the brim. For a take on this angle and much more, check out one of my favorite local blogs called "happening-here," written by a lesbian election consultant named Jan who obviously adores Hispanic people and culture. She's also a good photographer and an unusually clear writer. Check "The nanny took the day off" by clicking here.