Last week we welcomed Crystal Dillman, the widow of Luis Martinez, to Mexico. Martinez was murdered by a group of white youths in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania, earlier this year – just because he was a Latino. His wife Crystal, an anglo, courageously stood up and demanded justice, her stand has made her a target of threats, intimidation by local police and hostility from neighbors. She has brought their children to make her home with Martinez’s family in Mexico.
Evidently, racism in the United States did not die with the election of Barack Obama! Racism attaches itself to a people based not only on their skin color but based on their country of origin. When the United States and Europe viewed Africa as a place they had the right to dominate and exploit, then Africans were treated as less than human in the United States. The long and much to be admired struggle of African Americans has begun to overcome these attitudes – especially as their numbers, unity and political strength grew. And we must remember the contribution of African Americans in ending U.S. support for apartheid.
When Crystal Dillman spoke out after the murder of her husband she correctly identified the source of the hatred against him as the anti-immigrant, anti-Latino hysteria in nearby Hazleton Pennsylvania, in the national campaign against legalization and in the media campaign of men like CNN’s Lou Dobbs. In fact, hate crimes against Latinos have risen by 40% since 2005.
Crystal Dillman was welcomed in Mexico at an international conference dealing with migrant issues which drew representatives from the United States, Mexico and Central America. Conference participants reflected that long standing U.S. domination of Latin America, going back to the Monroe Doctrine, is at the root of racism against Latinos. The military conquest and acquisition of northern Mexico – now the states of Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, California and Colorado – the colonization of Puerto Rico, the constant interventions in Central America and the Caribbean testify to this history of arrogance. Historically, racism in the U.S. has two legs: the institution of slavery and the domination of Latin America.
The conference, which welcomed and gave shelter to Crystal Dillman, pledged a coordinated program to support the demand for legalization in the United States and especially a moratorium on the separation of families. There will be coordinated actions in the United States, Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean on December 18th, the international day for the migrants, January 21st, the day after Barack Obama’s inauguration, March 8th, international women’s day, and May 1st, the day of the workers.
We are from many nations, but we are one people joined by our struggle for respect and the right to keep our families together. As Latinos are joining to support the struggle for legalization of the undocumented the increasingly powerful Latino community will also become a voice for justice and respect throughout Latin America.