El pueblo unido

Her Hot August Nights T-shirt gave me a clue to Beatrice Camacho’s version of the American dream.

“Classic car?” I asked.

“A Ford Mustang, the first model,” she said.

“1965?” I guessed.

She shook her head. “1964.”


“Yellow and black.”

Camacho, carrying a U.S. flag, hesitated before talking to me during an immigration rally in front of the Thompson Federal Building.

“I don’t speak much English so I don’t know if I can help you,” she said, impeccably. The 32-year-old mother of three speaks two languages much better than I.

Camacho had marched downtown with her husband and three children. She’s lived here 16 years. For the past seven, she’s worked cleaning houses for a Reno company.

Why is the immigration issue important to Camacho? She turned to her 11-year-old daughter Itzayana for translation help.

“People just come here to work,” Itzayana said for her mother. “We’re just good people, not stealers.”

As we chatted, the crowd began to chant:

“¡El pueblo unido jamás será vencido!” (The house united can never be defeated.)

A banner that had been carried proudly through downtown Reno was stretched out on the grass: “The giant wasn’t sleeping—he was working.”

Speakers took turns at the microphone, addressing those gathered as hermanos (brothers).

“Todos las personas están hijos de dios.” (All the people are children of God.)

“Hay un lugar para todos los hermanos y hermanas.” (There is a place for all brothers and sisters.)

“No hay persona ilegal.” (No person is illegal.)

One man, U.S. flag draped over his shoulders, listened intently as a speaker switched to English.

“Together we can build a better society,” the speaker shouted. “No one is illegal here. We are all sons and daughters of God. There is bounty enough for every one of us.”

“¡Si se puedes! ¡Si se puedes!” (Yes we can.)

“¡U.S.A! ¡U.S.A.!”

On the corner of South Virginia and Liberty streets, a handful of counter protestors griped about the liberal media, though they were interviewed by several reporters—and their complaints seemed accurately quoted in later stories.

I wasn’t interested in the narrow views of those who fear a socio-economic leveling, who would hoard the U.S. experience for those lucky enough to be born here.

Yes, luck. We did nothing to deserve the excesses we take for granted. God does not love us best.

Two 9-year-old boys sprawled on their backs under a small tree, stomping their feet to the chant. Palmer Elementary student Ramon Valdez and his friend, Manuel, joined in: “Si se puedes. Si se puedes.”

“I just say it to be proud, to have honor,” Manuel told me.

“I’m here to cheer for people,” Ramon said. “There should be no illegal Mexicans.”

“And just Mexicans?” prompted Ramon’s mother, Jannie Valdez, 32.

“And other people in the world, like Chinese.”

Valdez smiled. “They’re young, new to all these ideas.”

Valdez has taught in the Washoe County School District for six years. She wore a white tank top emblazoned with the logo of her alma mater, UNR.

“I have had a very successful life,” she said. “I haven’t encountered much racism. A lot of people have encouraged me to go on.”

Valdez said she enjoys teaching middle-school students in Sparks.

“It’s a time in their lives when you either make a difference, or you don’t,” she said.Valdez, born in Reno, wouldn’t be impacting adolescents if her parents hadn’t come to the United States illegally more than three decades ago.

Her father had been a teacher in Mexico.

“He wanted a better life for his children,” Valdez said.