By John Colson
Sopris Sun Staff Writer
A smattering of Latino and Anglo businesses in Carbondale closed in conjunction with nationwide political “actions” on Feb. 16 and 17.
On Feb. 16, it was a nationwide Day Without Immigrants strike to show how much the U.S. needed its immigrant workforce, and an informal survey of the town showed that at least four businesses closed their doors for the day.
And at least one business, the Back Door Consignment shop, closed on Feb. 17 as an expression of solidarity with that day’s national strike and boycott aimed at protesting the presidency and policies of Donald J. Trump.
Most local businesses in town, however, remained open for both days.
Day Without Immigrants
Owners or spokespersons at Garcia’s Cafe, Tortilleria La Roca, Teresa’s Market and Los Cabos (formerly El Horizonte) confirmed that they closed for the Day Without Immigrants, which was aimed at demonstrating the reach and impact of immigrant workers around the U.S.
At Garcia’s, at Highway 133 and Cowen Drive, owner Francisco Rivera said that five of his employees expressed a desire to take part in the day of protest, adding, “they were happy that we were supporting it.”
In addition, Rivera said, customers who came in the following day were appreciative of his decision.
“They said, thank you for closing,” Rivera recalled in a telephone interview.
Nationwide, according to news reports, thousands turned out in support of the Day Without Immigrants, though some were fired by their employers for skipping work to take part in the day’s events.
Stacey Baldock, owner of two restaurants in Carbondale (The Goat, at the north end of town near Cowen Drive, and The Pig, 1054 Highway 133 next to Sopris Wine & Spirits), told The Sopris Sun that all of her employees are Hispanic and that she supported them and their interest in taking part in the Feb. 16 day of solidarity.
“I’m gay, they’re Latino, and I support them one hundred percent,” Baldock said, noting that as a lesbian she feels that “my people are next in line” for prejudicial treatment at the hands of President Donald J. Trump and the Republican Party.
At the family-owned Tortilleria La Roca, in the Red Rock Plaza on Highway 133, owner Cesar Ruiz said, “It was a decision that we made as a family … it was something, you know, that we all need to stand together.”
He conceded that he had lost a good bit of income, but added, “We’ll make it back today, we’ve been very busy.”
One local Mexican restaurant, El Pollo Rico in the Sopris Shopping Center, chose to stay open on Feb. 16 because a spokesman felt the protest was not organized well.
“I didn’t agree with the way that they did it,” said the spokesman, asking that his name not be used out of concern that he might alienate some of his customers.
He said that the Day Without Immigrants seemed to be organized primarily using Facebook and social media, adding, “I look at Facebook, but not very often.” He maintained that it struck him as ineffective and insupportable.
He felt that a previous day of demonstrations about U.S. immigration policy, “about seven years ago,” was much better organized and effective, and said that he took part in that protest.
“The Anglo community has been very good to the Latino people,” he said of Carbondale’s attitude about immigration, immigrants and the mix of cultures. “We really appreciate that. I believe that we got a really nice community here.”
He said none of his customers that day said anything about the protest event, or about his decision to stay open.
School absences surge
In addition to business closures, as indicated by data from the Roaring Fork School District, daily absentee rates in Carbondale schools at least tripled and, in the case of Crystal River Elementary School, more than quintupled on Feb. 16, compared to attendance numbers three days earlier on Feb. 13, a normal school day without a national protest.
According to numbers provided by Kelsy Been, the district’s public information officer, on Feb. 13 the schools in Carbondale recorded 17 absenses at CRES, 18 absenses at Carbondale Middle School, 24 at Roaring Fork High School and seven at Bridges High School.
On Feb. 16, Been’s numbers showed, CRES reported 93 absences (more than five times the Feb. 13 number), CMS had 68 students absent (nearly four times as many as on Feb. 13), RFHS reported 73 students out and Bridges had 24.
Been said the district has no alternative explanation for the absentee surge, other than the Day Without Immigrants action.
The owner of the Back Door Consignment shop, at 50 N. 4th St. in Carbondale, readily conceded that his was likely to be the only local business that closed for the Feb. 17 boycott/protest against President Donald Trump’s positions and policies.
“It’s costing us a day’s worth of business, but what the heck, you do what you can do,” said Monk Burkmier in advance of the protest.
He said on Feb. 20 that he got no feedback from customers about being closed, but steadfastly held that it was the moral thing to do and that he was glad he did it.
“I don’t think anybody (in town, besides himself) knew about it, which was too bad,” he noted.
No other local businesses could be found that took part in the Feb. 17 boycott and protest.
Nationally, building on the success of the Feb. 16 events, pro-immigrant protests continued throughout the weekend, including large rallies in Los Angeles, Ca., and Dallas, Tx., according to a report by NBC News.