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Saturday, January 22, 2022

From mechanic to mayor: Jesús Garza, the immigrant who conquered a city full of Trump supporters

Since he arrived from Mexico 28 years ago, Jesús Garza has been able to give his life a boost that led him to an unthinkable position: he went from being a worker in a broom factory and a mechanical workshop to becoming a the first latin mayor of a city filled with supporters of former President Donald Trump and his anti-immigrant rhetoric

Garza came to the city of Arcola, in Illinois, when he was just 23 years old, to work, following in his father’s footsteps, at the Libman broom factory, the largest employer in town

That young Mexican immigrant, who did not speak any English, later managed to dedicate himself to an activity that he was passionate about, being an auto mechanic, obtaining citizenship and founding his own workshop, which has the largest client portfolio in the area.

At the age of 51, he now leads the annual sorghum broom festival parade in the city as mayor of the city, and on both sides of the sidewalk they acclaim him “I never expected people to respond like that. That moves meGarza said in a report that portrays his story with the Chicago Tribune newspaper.

Arcola Mayor Jesús Garza at the annual broom sorghum festival E Jason Wambsgans / Chicago TribuneE Jason Wambsgans / Getty Images

Garza decided to run after seeing the deterioration of businesses in the area and worried about the future of the city.He won as a pro-independence with just 41% of the votes, against 35% of his main opponent, conquering a community

Arcola is a town of just 2,927 residents that, although it has added an immigrant population in recent decades, is still a predominantly white and conservative community An estimated 66% of Garza voters are Republican Trump supporters

Garza’s story shows what is at times a disconnect between local attitudes on immigration and the national political narrative on the issue.

Among festival goers, Arcola voters time and again pledged allegiance to Trump’s tough rhetoric on immigration when interviewed by the newspaper.

Bill Anderson, 77, a retired sawmill worker, called Trump the “best president since Kennedy” and said his tough stance on immigration and his insistence on building a border wall was “very strong.” enthusiasm and applauded Garza from his curbside seat at the parade

“Here in Arcola, you would never have thought of the idea of ​​a Hispanic mayor. For many years, it would never have happened. But Jesus has shown that he is an entrepreneur, and I love that it has been chosen “, indicated

Garza has managed to become a symbol of tireless work and effort, and managed to integrate into the community and become an esteemed member.

When he arrived at Arcola, I worked 16 hours a day, 12 in the broom factory and four part-time in a mechanic shop, until he got a full job fixing cars

“From the day I arrived here, my father’s friends, on the American side, wanted to talk to me every day even though I didn’t speak any English. They invited me to be part of the community, to work on their cars,” he said.

In 2000, he became a U.S. citizen and in 2005 he opened his own garage Garza worked from 3 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week for years The man, a father of four, managed to convert his business at one of the largest repair shops in central Illinois

Although his feat was the conquest of republican voters Many of his followers, when asked about voting for an immigrant, make a distinction between Garza’s arrival in the early 1990s, with a work visa, and the migratory crisis that is currently unfolding at the border and that has caused a record number of illegal crossings

Garza voted for Trump in 2016, but abstained from the polls in 2020 When consulted by the newspaper, he was against the border wall with Mexico, but acknowledges that many in the city do not know his political position at the national level

The mayor said that some voters They asked him about Trump when he campaigned door-to-door His usual response was that he considered Trump to be a good businessman who handled the economy well, but his heavy-handed tactics and incessant tweets got him into trouble.

Beyond his balanced speech, Garza is also part of what the neighbors say is a diverse and integrated community “All I can say about Arcola is that the people here get along”Said a veteran who supports the border wall and also, fervently, the Mexican mayor


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