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'Si Se Puede' Moves a New Immigrant Generation

Demostrators march down Wilshire Boulevard in downtown Los Angeles.
Mandalit del Barco, NPR
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Demostrators march down Wilshire Boulevard in downtown Los Angeles.
College student Aaron Napoples has a contender for the movement's new slogan...
Mandalit del Barco, NPR /
/
College student Aaron Napoples has a contender for the movement's new slogan...
Lilia Galindo has a message for Lou Dobbs, the CNN news anchor who rails nightly about the economic and political impact of illegal immigration.
Mandalit del Barco, NPR /
/
Lilia Galindo has a message for Lou Dobbs, the CNN news anchor who rails nightly about the economic and political impact of illegal immigration.

The huge May 1st demonstrations across the country had people chanting a Spanish-language rallying cry first made famous by Cesar Chavez, founder of the United Farmworkers Union.

At one of the biggest marches on Monday, nearly half a million marchers filled the streets of downtown Los Angeles, many of them animated by repeated strains of "Si, se puede!" ("It can be done!").

Those three words were everywhere, shouted out not only by Latinos, but by Russian immigrants, Filipino-Americans, Koreans and many other groups -- some using their own versions of the chant. Others shouted "el pueblo unido, jamas sera vencido" ("the people united, will not be divided"), a revolutionary cry made famous by Che Guevara.

Mauricio Mejia remembers the marches to protest the civil war in his native El Salvador. Compared to those protests in the 1980s, which often turned violent, Mejia praised the freedoms allowed in the United States. "People were more violent -- there's not much freedom of expression like we have here," he says. "There... you were fearing for your life. Here, you feel safe. You can say whatever you want."

There were few possible contenders for a new slogan to match the new movement. Aaron Napoples had a sign with a green space alien that read "We Come in Peace."

And Lilia Galindo held a sign with a message to a certain CNN news anchor who's been especially critical of the mass rallies: "Lou Dobbs, Eat Your Heart Out -- We Will Win."

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

As an arts correspondent based at NPR West, Mandalit del Barco reports and produces stories about film, television, music, visual arts, dance and other topics. Over the years, she has also covered everything from street gangs to Hollywood, police and prisons, marijuana, immigration, race relations, natural disasters, Latino arts and urban street culture (including hip hop dance, music, and art). Every year, she covers the Oscars and the Grammy awards for NPR, as well as the Sundance Film Festival and other events. Her news reports, feature stories and photos, filed from Los Angeles and abroad, can be heard on All Things Considered, Morning Edition, Weekend Edition, Alt.latino, and npr.org.
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