the difference a year makes

Voces de la Frontera, Milwaukee’s most prominent organization for immigration and other Latino issues, has officially announced Milwaukee’s May 1st immigration march and city-wide work boycott. According to the Journal Sentinel’s newswatch from this afternoon, the march is more or less a repeat of last year, starting on the South side and ending in Veteran’s Park. However, a few higher-profile attendees, including Ricardo Chavez, brother of United Farm Workers founder Cesar Chavez, will speak at the rally.

Last year, still managing a restaurant at this time, I was put in the awkward position of having to try and convince my Mexican employees to stay and work that day, or risk a complete disaster at the restaurant. (For the record, I feel bad about that now). But those are the sorts of compromises that helped drive me out of full-time restaurant work, and I couldn’t be more pleased with the results. Needless to say though, I could not take the day off to go to the march in Milwaukee, which turned out to be one of the largest peaceful demonstrations in the city in decades.

A few weeks later, when Madison had a similar march and rally, I had the day off, and headed west to wander about the Capitol, taking photos of families draped in red, white, blue (and green) flags, holding signs, chanting and just generally gathered for a cause. Later that afternoon, sitting on the Monona Terrace reading and enjoying the spring sunshine, I received a phone call offering me my current job, which in turn, changed my life.

The biggest change from a year ago is that my new job has freed me from the exhaustion of restaurant work and allowed time to pursue more blogging, and more recently, freelancing. Were I still with Qdoba full-time, there is no way I would have ever taken the continuing education classes I’ve taken the last few months, or had time to stay up on the news enough to write for the Journal Sentinel, and I may not have found Immigrate2us which also changed my life.

Besides that, I think feeling conflicted, stressed and hateful about my job and being ridiculously busy would have made this long separation from Fermin far worse. I also wouldn’t have been able to go to Mexico twice and would have been in direr financial straits. Wow, there are really a lot of pluses.

Anyway, this year I’m very much looking forward to attending the march and rally in Milwaukee. I’ll have photos and have already reserved May 3 for a community column on the subject.

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