When Michelle Otero arrived at an art show featuring Mexican-American women, she scanned the room: Two exits, one security guard. Otero, who is Mexican-American and Albuquerque’s poet laureate, had questioned attending the crowded event at the National Hispanic Cultural Center a day after 22 people were killed at a Texas Walmart. That shooting and an earlier one in Gilroy, Ca., killed nearly two dozen Latinos. The violence has some Hispanics looking over their shoulders, not speaking Spanish in public and seeking escape routes amid fears they could be next, the Associated Press reports. An immigration raid of Mississippi poultry plants last week that rounded up 680 mostly Latino workers, leaving behind crying children searching for detained parents, also has unnerved Hispanics.
The events come against the backdrop of racially charged episodes that include then-candidate Donald Trump referring to Mexican immigrants as “rapists,” Trump, as president, referring to migrants coming to the U.S. as “an invasion” and viral videos of white people chastising Hispanics for speaking Spanish in public. From Houston to Los Angeles, Latinos have taken to social media to describe being on edge, worrying that even standing in line for a Taco Tuesday special outside a food truck or wearing a Mexican national soccer team jersey might make them a target. Alexandro Jose Gradilla, a professor of Chicana and Chicano studies at California State University, Fullerton, said he and his wife, also a professor, “know anyone can look up a class schedule and start shooting.” He said, “White supremacists don’t see the difference between immigrants to fourth-generation Latinos. They see brown.”