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Mountain View center memorializes lost laborers: COVID-19 victims remembered with hope and determination

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Members of the Day Worker Center of Mountain View created chalk art and displays paying tribute to three laborers who died during the COVID-19 pandemic: Lorenzo Organista, Cornell Fowler and Jose Reyes.

Members of the Day Worker Center of Mountain View and city officials were joined by a national radio audience in commemorating workers who died during the COVID-19 pandemic in celebration of Worker’s Memorial Day Thursday.

Day Worker Center members gathered their chairs in front of the center’s Escuela Avenue parking lot, sitting in remembrance of three workers who lost their lives during the pandemic. Despite the chilly wind and interruptions from the Caltrain line running behind the building, the event was well attended, with Mayor Lucas Ramirez and Vice Mayor Alison Hicks turning out in solidarity.

Day Worker Center executive director Maria Marroquin suggested that attendees “chismear,” or gossip, as people continued to stream in, with some standing in back of the seated crowd.

The focal point of the event was a shrine surrounded by tissue-paper flowers made by the workers paying tribute to laborers Lorenzo Organista, CornellFowler and Jose Reyes.

Speakers included representatives from the Service Employees International Union, the Pilipino Association of Workers and Immigrants and two Day Worker Center members who survived COVID infections.

Carlos Arreola Jr., a center staff member, provided translation services throughout the event, opened by acknowledging “the pain, the anguish and the frustration” workers have suffered through the pandemic. Arreola cited a UC Merced study that revealed that of the 14,370 additional deaths in California during the first 10 months of the pandemic, 87% were workers.

“They call us essential workers,” Arreola said, “but in reality, only the work is essential.”

Speakers throughout the evening called for better working conditions and a clearer pathway to citizenship.

Gloria Palacios, a 20-year member of the center and

COVID survivor, recounted her struggle with the virus and difficulty finding health-care services while out of work. She said she hasn’t been able to work, smell or taste for the past year and has struggled with brain fog and memory issues, symptoms often related to what’s known as “long COVID.”

According to Palacios, she likely would have succumbed to COVID if her friend, also in attendance, had not called an ambulance to take her to El Camino Hospital, where she received treatment.

Despite the solemnity of the event, many speakers injected notes of hope.

“There is always a path,” Palacios said.

Another speaker guided the crowd in chants of: “Se puede?” or “Can we do it?”

“Si, se puede” – “Yes, we can” – the audience replied.

Marroquin led the audience in “respectfully say(ing) hi and bye” to the deceased before closing the event.

The center also organized a march last Sunday to commemorate International Workers’ Day.

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