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Friday, July 02, 2004

Porterville Recorder - "Just like a tree planted by the waters, we shall not be moved."

Porterville Recorder
"We shall not be moved," said Lucy Boutte, lead organizer of the event. "Just like a tree planted by the waters, we shall not be moved."

Boutte led the crowd in several songs before Lupe Martinez, third vice president of the National UFW office, rallied the people by chanting "Si se puede," translated to "It can be done."

The group cheered, clapped and whistled loudly, many of them carrying signs that read "Farmers and Farm worker - a winning team'" and "Farmers and Farm workers united - support AgJobs Bills."

"The reason we are here today is because we aren't afraid of the immigration," Martinez said to the crowd in Spanish. "It has been reported in the newspapers that the border patrol has returned to the border. The more pressure we give them, the more likely they'll leave. They think that because we have no papers, we have no rights. We want them to respect our rights. We have faith that we can do this. And with faith, no one can knock us down."

And with that, the crowd formed a long single-file line and began their six-block walk down G street while chanting loudly "Si se puede" and "El pueblo unido jamas sera vencido" - a united people shall not be defeated.

"I think this is really good," said Jose Guzman, 19, of Reedley, as he waved a flag with his right hand while holding up a sign with his left hand. "We need to stand behind our people. Without us, California would not be what it is today."

Paul Buxman, one of a handful of supporters at the rally that was not Hispanic, said he called the farm workers "angels of my farm."

"We're the farmers. Why wouldn't we show up? We love our farm workers. Why wouldn't we support our angels?" asked Buxman, a Reedley-area farmer of peaches, plums, nectarines and grapes. "This is a no-brainer. Legalize our help! We couldn't farm without them."

Buxman said most of his workers are legal, but he understands there may be some illegal ones that he is not aware of.

"We just need to change this law," Buxman said.

The bipartisan federal AgJobs bill, S. 1645 and H.R. 3142 now before Congress, would allow undocumented farm workers to earn the legal right to permanently stay in this country by continuing to work in agriculture.

The shouting continued as the crowd marched up G Street to 13th Avenue, stopping traffic as they crossed intersections, while many drivers honked their car horns in approval and a couple of cars yelled in obvious disapproval: "No! We won't give you a license!"

Marching along was a 27-year-old man named Guadalupe.

"I am illegal," he said, declining to give his last name. "I am in the shoes of many. I go to school and work for a rancher. But even without papers, I will continue with my dream. This is a land where dreams come true and I won't give up."

The marchers then returned to the park for more singing and a candle-light vigil with a rosary and ended as they prayed in unison "The Prayer of the Farm Worker's Struggle," a prayer written by Caesar Chavez, founder and former head of the UFW union.

"It's good what they are doing, as long as it doesn't get violent," said Irma Villagomez, who happened to be at the park for her daughter's cheerleading practice. "I see nothing wrong with their march in an appropriate way. They should be treated fairly and get paid for what they do."

"They have the right to voice their opinions like everybody else," added Kristi Creed of Selma, also at the cheerleading practice.

Martinez returned to the microphone, rallying the people together once again.

"We know the way and we know it's hard. This demonstration is not only here in Reedley, we're also doing this in Bakersfield and all over the state of California," Martinez said. "We're with you, if you're with us. And even if ranchers don't say it, they know that legalization is needed and sooner or later they will have to stand behind us."

Contact Esther Avila at 784-5000, ext. 1050, or at eavila@portervillerecorder.com.

This story was published in The Porterville Recorder on July 2, 2004


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