- The Washington Times - Monday, May 1, 2006

MEXICO CITY — Thousands of Mexicans took to the streets yesterday to support illegal aliens in the United States and celebrated what they called “A Day Without Gringos” by shunning U.S.-owned supermarkets, fast-food restaurants and American goods.

Measuring the boycott’s effect proved difficult, however, because business is normally reduced to a fraction of normal volume on Mexico’s May Day holiday.

Some Mexicans vowed not to buy from or patronize any businesses related to the United States, while others said they found it difficult to avoid doing so.

Customers streamed into some branches of Wal-Mart, McDonald’s and Burger King in the Mexican capital despite the boycott, which coincided with a call for aliens in the United States to skip work, school and shopping.

Juan Ortiz, a 28-year-old salesman who left a Wal-Mart in downtown Mexico City pushing a cart load of food and bathroom goods, said he supported legalizing aliens in the United States, but didn’t think it was practical to boycott U.S. goods.

“You have to buy what is least expensive here, and I have to buy things for my family,” he said.

Celestino Garcia, a 32-year-old sandwich seller outside the Wal-Mart, said he was seeing the same number of shoppers yesterday as on any other day.

It also appeared to be business as usual at a McDonald’s franchise in a working-class neighborhood near Mexico City’s international airport.

But Marina Serna, deputy manager for a downtown Burger King, said she thought the boycott was having an effect: The restaurant had only one customer in its first 90 minutes yesterday, even though it is owned by Mexican franchise holders.

Sergio Segura, 42, a member of an Aztec Indian dance group, stood outside of a McDonald’s waiting for some friends, but said he did not plan to eat there.

“Sure, Mexicans buy the franchises, but part of the earnings go to the markets on Wall Street. I’m not eating here today or tomorrow.”

Pointing across the street to a vast market replete with tacos, tortillas and sandwiches, Mr. Segura said, “For what it costs for three hamburgers from McDonald’s, you can buy for the whole family and eat well at the market.”

But as he leaned against his Ford minivan, Mr. Segura acknowledged the difficulty of avoiding all U.S. products. “Here in Mexico, there is no way to buy Mexican” cars, he said.

Although federal officials tried to distance themselves from the events, at least a half-dozen state governors in Mexico endorsed the boycott of U.S. companies, and thousands of unionized workers — who traditionally hold labor rallies on May 1 — dedicated yesterday’s marches to the cause.

Some of the demonstrators who gathered in the huge downtown plaza known as the Zocalo carried banners with slogans that read “Unrestricted Support for Migrants.”

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