By Martin Eder
Three thousand people marched then rallied in Balboa Park in San Diego on Saturday, March 20th to denounce the war and occupation. 571 pairs of shoes, lay in the park as a backdrop representing the young American soldiers who had been sacrificed in the last year in Iraq.
Highlight of the event were three speakers, three Latinas, a soldier’s widow and two mothers whose sons were killed on the same day during the Jessica Lynch incident. Rosa Gonzalez of San Bernardino, California saw the body of her son Jorge on TV last March 23rd as Telemundo was showing an Arab news service; an Iraqi soldier lifted Jorge’s head and said, “American mothers will cry tears of blood”. Rosa, with Jorge’s widow, Jasty Gonzalez at her side, spoke eloquently, bringing most in the crowd to tears, as they described the military recruiter’s lure to enlist. Jorge was promised his dream of attending LA police academy and becoming a policeman. He was kill just 3 days after entering Iraq. Rosa condemned the Bush Administration and the Pentagon saying ... “I want to say to the President of the United States... Stop this war! How many lives do you want? He (Bush) needs to tell us the truth. He didn’t stop the terrorists with the war. We mothers are nothing to him. He never gave me one little “thank you” for giving my child.”
Rosa was joined on stage by Amelia Estrella of El Paso, Texas. When these two women learned of each other and discovered that their sons were bonded together in life and in their tragic death, the two mothers became like sisters. On Saturday they were sisters in struggle as they both took to the protest stage for the first time. Amelia spoke emotionally in Spanish stating that Ruben had been told stories by the recruiters about a house, a brand new car and lots of money for college and a career path. Ruben was promised ‘maintenance/computer duty - with no combat.’ Ruben was just 17 when killed in Iraq.
The three women have begun collaborating with the Guerrero Azteca Project founded by Fernando Suarez del Solar of Escondido, California. Fernando’s son Jesus, another ‘green card Marine, bled to death in Iraq awaiting military medics after stepping on a US cluster bomb. Senor Suarez led a gigantic peace march and spoke on Saturday in New York City to 50,000 people. Jesus joined the military as a way to pay for his college and in hopes of getting his US citizenship. His father Fernando Suarez is now organizing full time against the war and military recruiters. He is touring the country focusing on youth of color and Spanish-speaking communities. Donations are being accepted to promote the work of Fernando, the Guerrero Azteca Project and to send medical supplies to Iraqi children wounded by US bombardments.
The rally in San Diego and Fernando Suarez’s role in the peace movement exemplifies the growing distrust of the Bush Administration’s motives for the war in Afghanistan and Iraq. The participation of the three Latina women is exemplary of a small but growing sentiment among immigrant families that the military is using their sons and daughters in disproportionate numbers for military adventures abroad that are costly not just in billions of dollars, but in the number of lives sacrificed for questionable purposes.