Des Moines Register 05-03-06 Fallout may bruise Cinco de Mayo

Des Moines Register
Fallout may bruise Cinco de Mayo
Tensions after Monday's boycott threaten Friday's Mexican holiday, some say.
Cinco de Mayo, a Mexican holiday widely celebrated in the United States on May
5, might be less festive in the wake of Monday's national boycott for immigration
"The overall feeling is that it's not a joyous occasion anymore," said Cilia María
Ruiz-Paz, 21, a junior at Iowa State University. "There's even more hostility
than there was before."
Tensions surrounding the national Day Without Immigrants, which included
boycotts and marches, could make Cinco de Mayo, on Friday, a "sensitive
subject," she said.
In at least 22 states, protests against illegal immigration have been planned on
Cinco de Mayo - a response to Monday's events. Iowa is not one of those states.
Many immigrants in Iowa and elsewhere didn't go to work or school or go
shopping on Monday. They hoped to send a message to U.S. lawmakers to
change immigration laws so the estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants
in the country can work and live here legally. They also hoped to show
immigrants' contributions to the American economy and society.
Organizers said they got what they wanted - everyone's attention.
"It was for them to know that we're helping them," said Gina Jimenez, 20,
treasurer of United for the Dignity and Safety of Immigrants, or UDSI, a coalition
that helped plan the Iowa boycott. "We love this country. That's why we're here."
Some Iowans said they didn't see much impact Monday.
"I didn't even notice," said Lindsey Carlson, 24, a funding representative at ING
Co-worker Jon Coglizer, 19, who works in imaging at ING, listened to a radio
program about the boycott. He said the only effect he noticed from the boycott
was on his fast-food dining experience. "My food came slower," he said.
Organizers will spend the coming weeks assessing the economic and social
impact of the boycott.
Participating in the boycott has cost some immigrants their jobs, some say.
Jimenez said six hotel workers who were absent from work on Monday were fired
on Tuesday. Alex Orozco, an organizer with UDSI, said he heard from a cleaning
company worker who was fired.
"They ended up retaliating against them for something they should have been
supportive of because it affects them as well," he said.
Organizers are compiling lists of businesses that fired workers and that either
supported or didn't support the effort, Orozco said. The list of firings will be sent
to national immigration groups that are tracking the issue.
More than 40 businesses closed in the Des Moines area on Monday.
Dozens of other businesses across the state, including meatpacking plants, also
closed, which surpassed organizers' expectations, Jimenez said.
The boycott accomplished its mission of helping Americans understand the
concerns of undocumented immigrants, said Jimenez, who was born in
Campeche, Mexico, and moved to Iowa in 2000.
"It was just one day," she said. "They need to understand we're not doing
anything bad. That's the way that we have to speak out. We don't have other
The planned anti-immigration protests do not surprise them, organizers said.
A growing number of Web sites list anti-illegal immigration protests, including and, which is
toutingFriday and June 30 as days to show U.S. lawmakers the impact a citizen
boycott could exert on society and the economy.
"Attacking certain immigrant communities by either naming them personally or
deciding not to patronize those businesses is not going to fix the current federal
immigration system," said Flavia Jimenez, an immigration policy analyst at the
National Council of La Raza, an activist group based in Washington, D.C. "It's
going to further divide the community."
U.S. Census projections estimate Iowa's Latino population will more than double,
from 104,199 to 269,630, by 2030. Estimates show about 50,000 to 75,000 of the
Latinos are in the state illegally.
Normally, Ruiz-Paz, the ISU junior who was born in Barranquilla, Colombia,
would have heard about Cinco de Mayo festivities by now, but "this year it hasn't
even been talked about," she said.
Ruiz-Paz, who is president of ISU's Latino Heritage Month, said students were
too busy planning their participation in Monday's boycott.
Cinco de Mayo celebrates the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862. Although the
battle was won, the French returned with additional troops and ruled over Mexico
for five more years before Mexico expelled them.
Orozco said the protests, vigils and events happening across the country will
continue to spark debate, which he hopes in the end will help immigrants.
"From what I've seen so far, we were able to accommodate what we set out to
do," he said. "We got our message out."