By Peter Maiden
The media has been full of stories about the caravan of refugees coming from Central America through Mexico to the United States, many of them negative. Somehow the anti-immigration forces gained control of the narrative. On Dec. 15 in Fresno, a countervailing force was made present, when six futsal teams held a tournament with the proceeds going to supplies for the refugees who had made it to Tijuana.
Futsal is a variant of soccer, with a smaller ball, smaller goals and a hard surface like a volleyball court. The teams have five players each.
On the sidelines at the tourney, I talked with Saúl Sarabia, who had come up from Los Angeles, where he is an adjunct professor at UCLA. He told me he and others had formed an informal solidarity network to receive funds and send goods to the border.
They have a Facebook page, called Solidarity with Refugee Caravan in Tijuana. They already had delivered sleeping bags and tents. As we were speaking, a young man named Manny came by and said, “People don’t help out because they don’t know how. You’ve given us a way.”
Sarabia said he hopes the solidarity group “could lead to people turning out to help contribute to changing laws and policies in this country that are contributing to this exodus.”
Along with the tournament, an auction of books by local authors was taking place. Altogether, said Dr. Romeo Guzmán of Fresno State, who led the organizing of the event, they were coming up locally with around $500. Guzmán is the director of the Valley Public History Initiative, also known as Historia Pública. They fielded the team called the Murrieta All-Stars.
Afterward, Dr. Guzmán said, “We had a really amazing group of soccer players, professors, college students, activists, artists and community members, which spanned multiple generations and included Central Americans, Mexican migrants, Mexican-Americans, African-Americans, Asian-Americans and Anglo Americans…We came together to think critically about how we can be allies to Central American refugees and how to connect with other activist groups in California.”
The winners of the tournament were called Goo Goo Ga Ga, a team that included former male and female players from Fresno City College.
Peter Maiden is a staff photographer for the Community Alliance newspaper. He studied media at UC Berkeley. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.