In April 2006, thousands of mostly Latino protesters marched to the state Capitol in Utah's largest such demonstration since the Vietnam War.
Now, a photo documentary seeks to capture the history of the "Dignity March," which called on Congress to enact immigration reform that included legal status for undocumented immigrants.
"Invisible No More: Latinos' Dignity March in Utah" opens at noon Nov. 19 at the Salt Lake Main Library, 210 E. 400 South, with a free public ceremony. The exhibit will be on display until Dec. 19.
It's an attempt to use human faces to portray a slice of the ongoing history of the immigration debate, says Armando Solorzano, one of six photographers who organized the exhibit and an associate professor at the University of Utah.
But Eli Cawley, who heads the Utah Minuteman Project, says that, if anything, he doubts the exhibit will present a balanced view of the event or the history it represents.
"If they were interested in presenting what issues were on our side, they should have come to the Minutemen," Cawley said. "Nobody came to us."
For Solorzano, the exhibit peels away the politics and the controversy by depicting the human beings involved in the march from its planning phases to the after-effects.
"It looks at what is inside the people. They may be unauthorized immigrants, but they are human beings," he says. "We need to see the whole picture."
He sees it as a continuation of another exhibit he organized, which looked at the history of Latinos in Utah.
"The word 'undocumented' has a broader meaning," he says. "We are not talking about undocumented workers, or immigrants, we are talking about the undocumented history of Latinos.
"We are invisible. Our history is not documented."
But Cawley, who was among about 150 counterprotesters, says it's his side of the story that has been left out. He said many media portrayals of the event portrayed Minutemen as "very uncomely" and ignored insults lodged against them.
"I didn't see a lot of dignity on display," he said. "As far as the photo exhibit goes, I'm sure this is just another attempt on the part of some compassion mongers to elicit sympathy for the illegal aliens."
In 2006, critics said the marches in Utah and elsewhere across the country drew more negative attention than positive, and the nation has yet to see comprehensive immigration reform.
However, exhibit organizers say the marches will have a long-term impact on the immigration debate.
"The state was forced to confront the reality of the growth of our (Latino) population and potential for good, or for bad, as well as our ability to mobilize," said Lee Martinez, another contributing photographer.
Solorzano hopes that state lawmakers, who in the 2008 legislative session will consider measures to get tough on illegal immigration, will take the opportunity to see the human faces in the exhibit.It's a continuation, he says, of the march, which "brings immigration to the center of the discussion."
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