Photo by Shannon SibayanWhen he was a university student in Mexico City, Carlos joined at least one protest a week. “For better wages, against police violence, for the Tlatelolco student massacre of 1968—you name it, I was there,” says the Santa Ana resident. I find him waiting for work in the shade of a tree at the Laguna Beach Day Workers Center on July 30. But time and circumstance have tempered the 23-year-old, so when four anti-immigrant activists block the center's driveway, he merely shakes his head in disbelief. And when some of his fellow jornalerosshout, “¡Viva Zapata!” and “¡Viva México!” Carlos yells, “Shut up, already!” And then adds, “Puta madre“—literally “whore mother,” but in this context, “fucking shit.”
“Americans view us as idiots,” Carlos continues. “And they're right. We shouldn't aggravate them. That's what they want us to do.”
Members of Save Our State, an organization that protests outside Southern California day laborer sites, announced weeks ago they would target Laguna Beach's city-sponsored center on July 30. It's located just outside downtown, on a hilly stretch of Laguna Canyon Road. Orange County jornaleroslove the Laguna Beach Day Workers Center for its gorgeous view, ample shade, consistent sea breeze and generous employers. There are two Port-a-Potties, a small office manned by a city employee and a fenced-off rest area with many picnic benches.
Today will be the third time this summer that opponents of illegal immigration have protested outside the center. But today is different: progressive activists have promised to protest the protesters.
Carlos and about 40 other day laborers are excited—and worried. They're glad the progressives—mostly Latino college students—support them, but they fear the ensuing clamor will scare away prospective employers. “One of my regular bosses was supposed to come pick me up today,” says an older man in a Dodgers T-shirt who calls himself Fierro (Iron). “I hope he doesn't get scared.”
About 15 minutes later, Fierro's cell phone rings. It's his boss; he's not coming.
The police are already standing around their patrol cars when the antagonists begin gathering in front of the Day Workers Center around 10:30. About 25 S.O.S. members, mostly middle-aged and white, hold American flags and signs denouncing illegal immigration—”Laguna Beach Aids and Abets Terrorism” and “Traitors” are my favorites. About 10 more young whites affiliated with the National Alliance, a white-supremacist organization, join them.
The anti-anti-immigrant activists number about 65.
The demonstration is largely peaceful, if loud. Both sides favor bullhorns to communicate their messages. Whenever there's a particularly heated exchange between the anti-immigrant and anti-anti-immigrant protesters, the jornalerospress up against the center's fence and egg the fight on.
“Please don't yell! Stay calm!” pleads center manager Irma Ronses, nervously pacing from bench to bench. “Stay on your side of the fence!”
Most jornalerosquietly observe from the rest area. One bench hosts poker and craps. Some men thumb through copies of the SocialistWorkerenEspañolthe activists dropped off earlier. Others play practical jokes on each other or offer running commentary on the female protesters. Fat. Nice ass. Great tits.
They're waiting for work.
“My opinion of all this,” says a squat jornalerowhen a lunch truck pulls up, “is that I'm hungry.”
But as the day progresses, the jornalerosrealize that work won't come today. Traffic snarls both sides of Laguna Canyon Road as commuters and bikers slow to watch. About 10 more young skinheads arrive. They stand opposite the Day Workers Center, unfurl the Stars and Bars and the red-black-and-white banner of the Third Reich, and shout, “Sieg Heil!” to the jornaleros.
The weather conspires; the breeze has died. The Nazi flag hangs limp in the still, hot air.
Finally, even Carlos has had enough. He grabs a Mexican flag and stands near a chiseled twentysomething wearing a gray Confederate cap, with “Irish” and “Pride” tattooed on his left and right bicep, respectively.
Carlos leads a chant: “¡Viva lagente!¡Vivaelmundo!¡Vivaeltrabajador!(Long live the people! Long live the world! Long live the worker!)” “¡Nazis, fuera!¡Nazis,fuera!¡Nazis,fuera!” (Nazis, out!).
Despite Ronses' pleas, more jornalerosempty their fenced corral and join Carlos and the other activists. The National Alliance and S.O.S. members gather their signs to leave. Police aren't allowing anyone to jaywalk across Laguna Canyon Road, though, so they must walk past the Day Workers Center to cross the stoplight at Canyon Acres Drive. As they do, the remaining jornalerosgreet them with whistles and shouts of “¡Culeros!“—”Assholes!” Someone suggests the jornaleroscross Laguna Canyon Road to confront the Nazis, and they do. The Nazis leave with police escorts.
The jornalerosand activists cheer. It's about 2:30. No prospective employer has passed in hours. Activists congratulate the jornalerosfor scaring off the Nazis, but many of the workers are packing too.
“This was fun, but Saturday is the best day of the week to find work,” says one. “This was a waste. If I knew this was going to happen, I would've stayed home.”