Six thousand marchers, the majority energetic high school students, cantered, jumped, cheered, and yelled rebellious chants as they marched Friday down Oregon St. in downtown El Paso to bolster opposition to a proposed federal immigration reform law.
Lagging behind, the furrowed faces of Braceros, the drum of the Matachines dancing and praising their Virgen de Guadalupe (the one who never fails!) and the red flags of the Chicanos trooped toward the Center for Border Farm Workers, they're voices also resounding with pounding catchy mottos as "¡Si se puede!" under the Spring's first hot sun. The not so typical image not only mimicked the previous two days in which local high school students have made, or at least attempted, several walkouts, but also ressembled the national protests that during the last two weeks have aimed their efforts to call the attention of the government and fight back the proposed HR4437 (AKA Sesenbrenner Bill). Perhaps just a few actually knew what was going on. Cell phones in hands, a great number of the adolescents were just fulfilling their will of being part of something big, the "real thing," as some local media dubbed the protest. And the critics may be right. One could see one too many trendy-clad students summoning others that were taking advantage of the walkout to go shopping or remain idle somewhere else. And though all the organizers coincided that many of the students protesting thoughout the week couldn't "verbalize" the specifics of the proposed law, they assured more than once that this kind of behavior shows a different attitude in the younger generations. "The proposed HR4437 has awakened people in a way that have not always been seen, it's specially important to see young people participate in events like this," Fernando Garcia with the Annunciation House said. One of the "awakened" teens is José Negrete, a 15-year-old Jefferson High student who megaphoned his messages ever since the rally's very beginning. "I'm here to support all the immigrants that come to this country to work and better their lives," he said. Before the threat of being "punished" by school authorities, Negrete said that it was more important to back the effort his "grandparents made when they came to this country; my abuelo came in WWII to work the fields of this country... I'm proud of what they've done for us," he said. And to show his pride Negrete lead a nurtured group of students that gathered minutes after 10 a.m. in San Jancinto Plaza, just as some politicians were calling the multitude to "remember" the leaders who showed up to support the cause, a probable commercial for the electoral times coming later this year.