Among the millions who joined the Women’s March in Washington D.C. and Hartford were many Connecticut Latinos, mostly women but some men, who shared what they thought these protests accomplished and what should be done next to advance their causes. Their priorities include women’s rights and support for immigrants, that they see threatened by the new president.
Evelyn Mantilla, a longtime political and community activist and a former state representative, was among the thousands who gathered around the National Mall in Washington. The West Hartford resident said, “It was an amazing experience to be among so many thousands of diverse individuals all supporting each other on such a varied list of issues.”
In addition, Mantilla observed, “These marches accomplished a mobilization like I’ve never seen before. I truly believe that countless participants where there in their first act of political involvement. That is an invaluable resource. The next step should be to organize these thousands of contacts and implement creative ways to keep them involved, not only at the national, but also at the local level.”
Another Latino who made the trip to Washington is Maribel La Luz, who has been involved as a communications specialist for the city of Hartford and state agencies.
“The day was filled with kindness and courtesy. Strangers looking at each other saying ‘excuse me’ and ‘thank you,’ no arrests or incidents,” said La Luz who is director of communications for the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities.
As for the impact of the Women’s March, she said, “My hope is that it reminded all who watched or were there that there is power and meaning in showing up and giving support whether you agree fully or not. I also hope it generates continued action and funnels into increased civic participation especially at the local level.”
Eloisa Melendez, a member of the Norwalk city council, traveled to Washington with her “favorite woman in the world,” her mother Fanny Osorio. The two women wore the pink kitty hats that were very much the style of the day.
Melendez said the march has a “huge impact and bigger things to come.” One thing she would like see happen was underscored in the sign she carried, which stated: “Ladies let’s fix this mess: run for office.”
It was a long day for Yanil Teron, director of the Center for Latino Progress in Hartford, who departed by bus from Trinity College about 1:30 a.m. and did not get back to the city until the early hours Sunday. Asked about the future, she referred on Facebook to the agenda of the organizers of the Women’s March on Washington, which is proposing 10 actions for the first 100 days of the Trump administration, the first being the sending of postcards to senators expressing the intention to continue fighting for various causes.
Teron also said, “The movement will continue because 56 percent of the people are against the changes about to take place by 44 percent of the voters.” She added, ” The voice of the people cannot be suppressed by special interest elitists.”
Werner Oyanadel, senior analyst for the General Assembly’s Commission on Equity and Opportunity, was among the many men at the Hartford march. “I personally felt very inspired by observing a huge support for immigrants at this march,” he said. “Their inclusive narrative against xenophobia and misogyny was extremely compelling.”
Several Hispanic officeholders including Democratic state Reps. Angel Arce of Hartford and Matthew Lesser of Middletown were at the Capitol rally, as was Meriden Councilman Miguel Castro.
Castro was critical of President Trump’s election campaign, which he saw was a “rehearsal on what he will do the next four years, his rhetoric and racial discrimination message (which) has the White House as the stage to be promoted and put into law.”
The Meriden official cited African-American writer James Baldwin who said, “One of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they are forced to deal with pain.”
Castro said, “We have to fight hate with love and pass legislation that reflect our country’s demographics.”
Ingrid Alvarez, Connecticut director of the Hispanic Federation, who attended the Hartford March with family, said, “it was a fantastic display and intersection of a myriad of social issues under the banner of human rights. And for Latino’s such as myself, a demonstration of how diverse we are.”
As for the impact of the protest, she said, “On Saturday, we said collectively that we are vigilant and will vigorously commit to this fight-to hold our government accountable to uphold their duties for all.”
Alvarez also said that much work lies ahead. “The real work for all of us lies in that intersectionality. We must and need to do more coalition building across all allies and advocates to defend our rights.”
She cited several avenues that should be pursued. “As a community, we must and need to do more to support and grow our community-based, grassroots organizations to build the capacity and financially support their advocacy work.
“We must double our community efforts around civic engagement work and continue to get out the vote and speak through the power of our vote for 2018 elections. We need to work and inform both the foundation and private sectors to support our movement,” Alvarez said.