— Rev Amy Zucker Morgenstern
Near the end of June, a year into the new “zero tolerance” policy of deterring immigration by separating families and locking up children, I learned that July 12 would be a day of nationwide protest (“Lights for Liberty”): against the camps in particular and for humane immigration and asylum policies in general. My family and I were getting ready to go to Mexico for three weeks, and that’s where we would be while our kindred-citizens were rallying outside detention centers and ICE facilities, at Congressional offices and on town greens.
I had been aching for an organized response, something I could do beyond giving money and calling officials. There was no way I was going to miss this. So I announced to the U.S. Americans living in or visiting Oaxaca, and to the Lights for Liberty organizers, that there would be a demonstration in Oaxaca that day. The U.S. consulate was closed on Fridays, but we’d protest on the street outside.
I admit, I didn’t want to spend a lot of my vacation time organizing a political protest. But we already had an ¡Engage Oaxaca! group — we had helped organize it immediately after the 2016 election, in the last weeks of my sabbatical there — and that was a good base from which to reach out to people. Friends helped: I asked for corrections of my tentative Spanish version of the poster, and got them. The family got into it: Indigo drew a child in a cage for the poster, and then we all put up copies around the city, especially in places U.S. citizens spend a lot of time, like the English library. We bought enough poster board and markers for ourselves, plus extras. Then we crossed our fingers and hoped there would be a good turnout.
There was! Forty U.S. citizens showed up, many with signs of their own, in Spanish and English. Lots of Oaxacans gathered around to watch, ask questions, help out by taking group photos, and, apparently, alert the press, because several newspaper and TV journalists arrived half an hour later. When, at the end of the hour, we told the reporters that we’d be going inside to slip our signs under the consulate doors, they ran ahead up the stairs to get good photos, and stayed to interview us some more.
I’m glad we reserved plenty of time for visiting friends, taking art classes, wandering the markets, eating at our favorite places, and all the other things we love in Oaxaca. But far from regretting the time spent on the protest, we all felt buoyed by it. Our little protest was a drop in the bucket, but that day we knew that there is a bucket, and that we can help it to fill up and overflow.
You can watch one interview with us at tinyurl.com/oaxacainterview.