‘We’re just hard workers’
Close to 2,000 residents got together in the valley Monday for rallies to support immigrants.More than 100 people at Sopris Park in Carbondale and between 1,500 and 2,000 at Sayre Park in Glenwood Springs skipped work and school to speak, sing and display posters in what may have been one of the largest political demonstrations ever in the valley.”We’re trying to get all together, man, do a march for us, for our kids,” said Raul Gonzales of Basalt, a native of the Mexican state of Nayarita, who came to the valley in 1989. “We’re here to say we’re not criminals, we’re just hard workers trying to get a better life for ourselves, our kids, so they can go to school.”At Sopris Park, a group consisting of more Anglos than Latinos gathered in front of the Ben Reed Memorial Gazebo to listen to the Rev. John McCormick of the Catholic churches in Basalt and Carbondale.”We find ourselves here today, doing what we call solidarity,” McCormick said.”All of us are immigrants. None of us happen to be Native Americans,” although one man, Richard Shivley, 53, of Carbondale, carried a sign announcing “Solidarity for Native Americans and Citizens.”Nationally, organizers called on people of all backgrounds to take a day off from work or school to show “solidarity,” and many in Carbondale did just that.Bob Olenick, owner of the Red Rock Diner on Highway 133, said he knew his largely Latino staff would be gone for the day, so he came in at 5 a.m. to open his restaurant and do the cooking, serving food on paper plates since his dishwasher was not on duty.Carl Stanfield, superintendent at the Crystal River Elementary School expansion project, noted that a number of concrete workers and masons were missing. But he said they had warned him in advance and he reorganized his work crews last week in preparation.Latino businesses such as Teresa’s Market, El Horizonte and Garcia’s restaurants in Carbondale, and the Taqueria el Nopal in Glenwood Springs were all closed for the day, while the Taco Bell in Glenwood appeared to be operating with half its staff. The Village Smithy restaurant in Carbondale, which has a high percentage of Latino workers, was also closed, although owner Charlie Chacos said he had scheduled that day for a general cleanup a long time in advance.
Although most of the speeches and other displays were pro-solidarity, a lone woman in Glenwood Springs held up a sign that said “No Amnesty for illegals.””I’m just speaking my mind as an American,” said the woman, Sunny Stapelman. “I’m very concerned about our borders, and terrorism, and the financial burden on our government … you name it.””I guess they have the right to do this,” she said. “But so do I. … I have no problem with immigration in general. But I do have a problem with the flooding of illegal aliens, particularly since Sept. 11, 2001. I think the borders should be closed [or] shut down to a narrow gate [with] much more regulation.”
She said another concern of hers was that “there are American citizens here who are supporting illegals.”A Latino man, 14-year valley resident Noe Huerta Hijar, joined her march for a while. He cleared the sidewalk for her and walked alongside carrying his own sign, which read, “More justice.”She also was joined for a moment by an unidentified woman who shouted at the speakers at Sayre Park, “Speak English, you’re in the United States. And if you don’t know how, go to school and learn it.”Most, however, were at the parks to observe, learn and offer support.
Daniel Bailey, a 20-year-old resident of Glenwood Springs who was there with his aunt, Robyn Starr, got up and sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” for the crowd.Bailey said he was at the event because, “I just wanted to be here for some hardworking people that I know and love,” adding that as many as three-fourths of his circle of friends were Latino.”I think it’s wonderful,” said Leslie Robinson, a leader of the Garfield County Democratic Party and of the local United Way. The group supports the Catholic Charities organization in Glenwood Springs, which helped organize the day’s events.”This is just a representation that they’re people, too. It’s all about treating Latinos with respect. I can’t begrudge them wanting a piece of the American dream … a better life for themselves and their children. I’m in favor of giving them the opportunity to become American citizens.”Jesus Lopez of Carbondale said his employer, the Aspen Sanitation District, gave him permission to attend: “I guess, so far I’ve got their support,” he said.A 12-year valley resident, Lopez acknowledged that there are some Latinos who are not what he called “good people,” and said with some heat, “There’s a lot of immigrants, they’re just here for trouble, they just make us look bad. … They should not be here. They should go back to their own country,” he said.”But there’s a lot of good people,” he said, “they’re the people who need the help to become citizens.”Cliserio Iglesias, with his young son, Enrique, on his shoulder, said his boss at Piñons in Aspen gave him the day off to be at the event. A 15-year resident who came here with his wife from Veracruz, Mexico, he said, “I come for work, not for drug dealing or anything.”Then he added after a moment, “Thank you, America.”
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