Cheers, whistles greet Latino march for peace

TIJUANA, Mexico — The “Peregrinacion por la Paz” (March for Peace) began March 12 at Centro Cultural de Tijuana, just south of the California border. From here, this long trek will go all the way to San Francisco. In the lead are peace activist Fernando Suarez del Solar and war resisters Pablo Paredes, Camilo Mejia and Aidan Delgado.

As we approached the U.S. border, Border Patrol guards came out to meet us. They had seen our signs and banners and were concerned that we would create an incident. Fernando assured them that our intentions were peaceful. They gave us a special escort that speeded us through the checkpoints.

After crossing the border, we were joined by other war protesters. All together we numbered about 40. Others would join us along the way.

Our first-day destination was Chicano Park in San Diego. We passed through San Isidro, Chula Vista and National City — all towns with a majority Latino population. Everywhere we were greeted with cheers, whistles, car honks and hands held up in V for peace formation.

Enrique, a young immigrant worker from the Los Angeles area, told me that he was born in Tijuana. When be heard about the march he felt he had to be part of it, and it also gave him a chance to visit his family.

John, a retired worker from Toronto, Canada, said he had long opposed the war. He flew all the way from Toronto to be part of the march.

Fernando Suarez del Solar is a man on a mission. His son Jesus, born in Tijuana, was killed during the invasion of Iraq, one of the first Latino soldiers to become a victim of this unjust, illegal war. Since his son’s death, Fernando has been campaigning to end the war. Paredes was court-martialed and discharged from the Navy for refusing to board a ship bound for Iraq. Mejia was jailed for refusing to serve in Iraq, and Iraq veteran Aidan Delgado became a conscientious objector.

With this march, they want to call attention to the fact that Latinos are bearing a disproportional burden of the casualties. They hope to arouse the Latino community to join with the majority of Americans who now oppose the war.

The march is inspired by Gandhi’s 1930 Salt March protesting British imperialism. It will make symbolic stops as it heads to San Francisco. One will be at the grave of Jesus Suarez del Solar in Escondido, Calif. Another will be at La Paz, where the hero of all American workers Cesar Chavez is buried.

It will end March 26 in San Francisco’s Mission District with a memorial service for Jesus and blood drive for Iraqis and Americans.