Signs of solidarity for the Black Lives Matter movement and other underrepresented communities have popped up in yards all over the country. The signs have come about as a show of public support from those who either live, understand or empathize with the BLM struggle.
One of the popular signs reads: “Black Lives Matter. No Human Is Illegal. Love Is Love. Women’s Rights Are Human Rights. Science Is Real. Water Is Life. Injustice Anywhere Is a Threat to Justice Everywhere.”
About a month ago, Alfonso Medina, the owner of Marshalltown’s popular Mexican restaurant, La Carreta, decided to put up one of those signs in the restaurant’s front lawn. He has since received two hate letters. In one of the letters they called him “leftist/Marxist,” stating that this sign is disrespectful and insulting to his customer base, to Christianity and to America.
This is not the first time Alfonso, 30, has stirred up conversations around issues of injustice. After George Floyd’s murder, Alfonso put up a Black Lives Matter sign in his restaurant. He also supported peaceful protestors in town by giving them water and trash cans to clean up afterward.
The restaurant received national attention during Iowa caucuses. Beto O’Rourke talked on social media about visiting Alfonso’s business and pointing out his receipt read: “Immigrants make America great and your meal was prepared and served by immigrants today.” Other presidential candidates visited La Carreta during the caucuses in their effort to court, and possibly earn, the Latino vote.
Alfonso’s parents are from Mexico. They immigrated to this country in the 1990s, ending up in Marion, Iowa, in 1995 and later settling down in Marshalltown. The family had always worked in the restaurant industry. In 2000, Alfonso’s father opened La Carreta. The restaurant closed in 2014, but four years later, Alfonso reopened it.
Alfonso attended Iowa State University and graduated in 2012 with a degree in hospitality management.
“The best school is the school of life,” he said.
When he reopened the restaurant, his mission was not simply to own a business and make money, but to contribute to his community. When the coronavirus pandemic began to impact access to certain foods, he decided to sell products from beef, chicken and rice to gloves and toilet paper, in bulk at an affordable price.
Alfonso’s heart is in the right place, and receiving threatening correspondence about his solidarity toward those suffering did not sit well with him. Knowing the power of social media, he turned to those networks and posted a picture of one of the anonymous letters he received.
“If a white-owned company has the right to be vocal about their beliefs, big or small, so does a minority-owned, tax-generating business,” Alfonso wrote on his Facebook page. “Minority-owned businesses should not shy away from being vocal or think they have to keep their thought to themselves. I’m sorry if the yard sign has offended anyone, but I don’t believe anything on there is offensive. If anything, everything on there is true. And I stand behind it.”
He also received a lot of support from his followers who shared their sentiments about his post online and his new yard sign:
“I’m Christian and American. I don’t feel disrespected. It accurately expressed what both America and Christianity are truly about,” a person commented on Alfonso’s post.
Another message of support read: “La Carreta has always been incredibly vocal about where their beliefs lie, and I love them for it. They are amazing and compassionate part of our community.” Another posted, “Y’all make me proud to be from Marshalltown. Don’t be discouraged from standing on the side of love.”
His post has generated both positive and negative comments. Most importantly, it has started dialogue around a growing and difficult topic. His post has garnered 919 shares and over 400 comments.
It is important for Alfonso to show solidarity for BLM, but this does not mean he is against police. Alfonso told me he has a good relationship with the Marshalltown’s chief of police.
“This is not about politicizing Mexican food, but is about standing for our beliefs and defending ourselves. It is time for Latino business owners to not be afraid of expressing how they feel,” Alfonso said.
The Medinas, like many immigrant families, have endurance and purpose. One of their family mottos is, “Where there is opportunity, there is also responsibility.” They refer to the fact that opportunity also entails a responsibility toward community and to speak up when they see injustice. That is what drove Alfonso to share the letter on social media. He wanted to stand up and start the conversation. He also created the hashtag #NoLoveNoTacos, a humorous take on raising awareness.
His intention with the hashtag is to uplift the messages on progressive yard signs and to fundraise for local students to continue their education (Alfonso has for years had a scholarship in his family’s name that provides tuition help to local students). The hashtag and t-shirts are becoming so popular that Alfonso said orders for t-shirts are coming from Florida, Tennessee and North Carolina.
I always have believed entrepreneurs are incredibly courageous individuals. Alfonso’s work ethic, integrity, morals and his view on life and justice are qualities I wish we could find in many politicians running for office this November. Several of those politicians have normalized lies, greed and lack of empathy for others.
When I asked Alfonso why it was so important to him to stand up for what he believes in, he told me, “A mark in the world big or small, makes one’s life purposeful.”
Standing for what is right may not be popular — it never has. That is what makes Alfonso Medina so special, in my opinion. Even though his business is food, I can’t help but see the contradiction of so many who love Mexican food, but do not translate that love into accepting those who make it and serve it to them.
I don’t know about you, but I am definitely planning a trip to Marshalltown to support and enjoy some delicious food from La Carreta and to say yes to love and yes to tacos. See you there!
By Claudia Thrane
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