Migrant agricultural workers from Ontario's Niagara region gathered at the Virgil AWA agriculture worker support centre on September 16, to celebrate Mexico's, as well as Central America's Independence Day. They were joined at the festivities and barbeque by community members, allies, AWA staff, as well as members of Students Against Migrant Exploitation (SAME).
At the Virgil gathering, workers also had the opportunity to see a doctor, receive information regarding health and safety issues, as well as information on workers' rights. A bicycle repair clinic was also a popular feature, as well as a performance by singer Laura Maria who delighted all with her 'rancheras' and made everybody feel at home. A raffle was also held, thanks to the support of donors, including UFCW Canada, Kairos, SAME and other community members.
Later in the afternoon, Father Hernan Astudillo held a Mass honouring worker Fausto Martinez-Izazaga, a Mexican migrant agriculture worker who was fatally injured on September 10th, at an orchard operation near Belleville, Ontario.
At the end of the gathering, migrant worker Ricardo Villegas closed a heartfelt speech to the crowd by leading the gathering to honour Independence Day with a rousing cheer of, “Viva Mexico, Viva Latinoamérica, Viva los proceres que nos dieron la Independencia” (long live Mexico, long live Latin America, long live the heroes who gave us independence) .
“The day was a fantastic opportunity to bring everyone together,” said Santiago Escobar, coordinator of the Virgil AWA centre, "and to thank the workers for the tremendous contribution they make to our community."