Documenting History in the Making: ¡Marcha! on Paseo Boricua


Several years ago, on the historic day of March 10, 2006, hundreds of thousands of students and families took to the streets in protest against Sensenbrenner bill H.R. 4437. This  repressive bill, which was successfully defeated thanks to such protests, sought to  criminalize undocumented immigration and make felons out of any individual or organization convicted of assisting undocumented immigrants.

Since then, Latino and immigrant rights activists have continued to demand comprehensive immigration reform and an end to raids, deportations, and attacks on immigrant communities. This first mega march took place here in Chicago, and spread throughout the country, sparking some of the largest protests in U.S. history. Though Chicago was, and continues to be, central to the national immigration debate, there is a tendency to ignore or forget the city’s contribution.

Fortunately, a recent book documents and analyzes Chicago’s special place in the immigrant rights movement. Edited by UIC professors, political scientist Amalia Pallares and sociologist Nilda Flores-González, ¡Marcha! Latino Chicago and the Immigrant Rights Movement explores the organizations, leaders, politics and identities that gave rise to the megamarches and to the broader politics of Latino and immigrant rights.

On March 31, Batey Urbano and the Puerto Rican Cultural Center (PRCC) hosted a community discussion of ¡Marcha!. Presenters included Flores-González, Pallares, Michael Rodríguez Muñiz, a contributor of a chapter on Puerto Rican participation in the immigrant rights movement, and Jhonathan Gomez, a member of a collective of photographers. Since its release, the book and photography exhibit has traveled to community spaces throughout the city,
stimulating reflection and brainstorming for the future. Given the PRCC’s longstanding involvement in the movement and the fact that two immigrant rights activists took sanctuary on Paseo Boricua, organizers felt an event in Humboldt Park was quite important.

Before a crowd of over 60 people, the presenters and audience engaged in discussion of the immigrant rights movement and prospects for progressive change in the future. It represents a great example of scholarship combining with political activism to carve out new possibilities.

¡Marcha! is published by and
available from the University of
Illinois Press.

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