Activist Marisa Franco has an extensive experience in the fight for human rights with vulnerable population; women, LGBT+ community, migrants, Latinx, poverty, etc.. She has participated in several movements to demand that civil, economic, social and employment rights are guaranteed for everybody.
Franco was born in Guadalupe, Arizona, to an immigrant father from Mexico in the 60s and a mother born to a family of migrants also from the neighbouring country. The activist grew up in an environment of mainly Latinx. She didn’t particularly feel American, but she identified as Chicana.
Already in her high school years she became involved in social struggles, fighting against Proposition 187 in California, which aimed to heavily curtail the rights of undocumented migrants. After high school, she went to college and graduated in Sociology and English Literature, with a major in Chicana studies.
The moment to leave Arizona had arrived: there were no many movements or organisations in her State and she wanted to learn to work on spaces of social mobilisation. She first moved to San Francisco and then to New York.
In 2010, after SB 1070 was passed, Marisa Franco started mobilising also in Arizona, her home state. She started working with local groups and in 2013, she moved back to the state that had seen her grow up. She was part of the team that designed and launched the campaign #Not1More, which aimed to fight against unfair migratory laws.
Currently Franco is focusing her efforts on the project Mijente, which she contributed to launch. Mijente is a collective that defines itself as “pro-latinx, pro-black, pro-woman, pro-queer, pro-poor”. She also participates in the initiative Chinga La Migra – a tour that tells stories of resistance of immigrants – and in the campaign Gente4Abrams – which seeks to mobilise the Latinx community for Stacey Abrams as Governor of Georgia.
Your activism started while you were in high school. Which would be your message for young people in high school?
To make the best of their time and learn as much as they can. Learning doesn’t come only from books; it also comes from relationships and parties, from actively listening to everything that is going on around you and acting. The process of listening, thinking and acting provides the best lessons, the ones that can actually be used outside college.
In your years of college, you went on a trip to Cuba that changed your perception.
I went there for mere curiosity, but that trip made me really think about activism and taught me what self-management was. Obviously the situation in Cuba during the US-blockade was not easy. But I was really impressed by the level of independence they had. There was poverty, sure, but there was also poverty back home, and there was also lots of poverty in Mexico. Instead, we didn’t have that feeling of pride and self-management. It made me think of the people I was working with – at that moment I was working with an NGO that provided services to children – and I started questioning it. Basically, the trip made me change the way I thought; problems needed to be faced putting the concerned population at the centre, instead of just providing services.
In 2013 starts the #Not1More campaign. How?
It was built around the fight against deportations in Arizona, in 2010. From there, we started mobilizing against the laws in other States that were copying the SB 1070, like Georgia, Tennessee or Alabama. At the same time, there was also a mobilization against the Federal programme named Safe Communities. In 2012 we went on a tour No papers, No fear and Undocubus a bus that went around the South of the country to the Democrats convention, where Obama was nominated for re-election.
All these actions were at the base of #Not1More. After Obama won the elections, we started a campaign to demand administrative actions against deportation.
The project Mijente, which you cofounded, is based on a clearly intersectional perspective.
As we say in the US, the increase of the population of colour has to generate a wave of power and progressive values that allows political change. However, this does not match the reality we see on the streets. There are many gaps and there is a lack of infrastructure to mobilise the Latinx community. We’re only asked to vote every four years.
There are movements and political projects that have been successful in the past, but there have also been failures. I believe that failures are related to the lack of recognition of who we are. Not only a latinx identity -in fact, this identity is already quite complicated in itself. We are also black, indigenous, women, LGBTQ, etc. Often, participating in a Latinx space meant leaving other identities out and for us, this is a big mistake.
After going to college you left Arizona, but you are back now. How has your State changed?
When I left home I was looking for an organisation, a movement, a struggle. But in 2010 I came back to Arizona to work politically, not only to visit my family, and I realised something was growing. In that time, the fight was like giving birth, and I am very proud of having had an active part in it. When I came back here, Arizona had changed. It is not a place devoid of movement anymore, but it’s a place full of strength and hope.