"My name is Erika Andiola, I am undocumented and I unafraid.” That’s how, at around 2:00 p.m. last Saturday, a Latina activist and dreamer began her moving speech at the Women’s March on Washington.
Andiola garnered attention four years ago after immigration officials raided her house and arrested her mother. Andiola recorded a video of herself, which led to a campaign to protect her mother from deportation.
Standing on stage before the hundreds of thousands of people who gathered for the Women's March, Andiola spoke about the night of November 8, 2016, when Donald Trump’s victory was announced. She called it “a day of horror for millions and millions of families across the country who are undocumented.” That night, her mom called her. “I am afraid,” her mother said.
"This is coming from a woman who would never show a sign of weakness,” Andiola told the crowd. “A woman who decided to leave the country that she was raised and born in through the desert with her kids and who never showed a sign of weakness. … And even in handcuffs, in front of me and my family, she looked at me in my eyes and told me: 'It’s going to be okay, I’m gonna to be fine.’”
The activist spoke of the government’s threat to cancel Obama’s executive actions related to immigration, specifically deferred action for childhood arrivals, or DACA. But, she added, “I can tell you to all those dreamers out there … you are not alone.”
Andiola's speech was also a message of love and resistance, which transcended the issue of immigration and mentioned minorities and the guerreras and women who have been raped or sexually assaulted.
Actress and activist America Ferrera also told the crowd that it’s been a “heartbreaking” moment as a woman and as a proud first-generation American born to Honduran immigrants.
"Our dignity, our character, our rights have all been under attack, and a platform of hate and division assumed power,” she said. In the most impassioned moment of her speech, she directed a message to President Trump, his cabinet and the Congress: "We are America. And we are here to stay. We will not go from being a nation of immigrants to a nation of ignorance.”
Ferrera's speech too went beyond immigration and advocated for the rights of Muslims, for "our black brothers and sisters who are systematically incarcerated and killed,” for the legal right to safe abortions and for the LGBT community.
Rivers of people
The day before the march, Latino organizations based in Washington, DC, estimated that at least 2,000 Hispanics would join the demonstration. Early Saturday, several groups such met in Garfield Park, such as as LULAC, the largest and oldest Hispanic organization in the United States, and the workers' organization Casa, who later joined the tide of men and women who overflowed the streets of the Capital carrying banners in Spanish.
At least two dozen people wore cardboard butterflies on their backs as a symbol of freedom and vindication of immigrants' rights.
Some even printed posted in English and Spanish with phrases like " los inmigrantes son bienvenidos," or "immigrants are welcome."
"I am here with thousands upon thousands of people to ask for women’s rights,” Antonia Surco, from Peru, told Univision News. “All this began with Donald Trump, who offended women in the middle of the political campaign. At this moment we want to ask for respect for each woman regardless of conditions of race, color or creed.”
Iridia Rivas, from El Salvador, told Univision News that she was at the march seeking “equality and justice for all.”
Tanya Regleih, a Venezuelan living in Philadelphia, said she was marching "for the human rights of women and our people."
Hispanic men were also present. Carlos Ruíz, a Puerto Rican who lives in Chicago, marched with his girlfriend. He held a sign that read: “ lo que sea que ella diga,” or “whatever she says,” while his girlfriend carried the words “ respeta mi cuerpo, mi vida y mi mente,” or “respect my body, my life and my mind.”
Pablo, from Mexico City, said he thinks the march was originally for women, but became a march “for anyone different.” And he added: “I am here to protest your offensive words, to oppose your ridiculous notion that we are going to pay for a wall on the southern border.”