The Story of a Hunger Striker
On July 1st, 2011, Martin Altamirano and Salvador Zamora began a hunger strike to protest Georgia’s harsh anti-immigrant law, HB87. After Salvador fell ill, Martin ended his fast to care for Salvador, who continued his hunger strike for a total of 70 days. They hope to continue advocating for immigration reform across the country.
Rev. Jeff Jones of the Emerson Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Marietta, GA was inspired by their effort and joined the hunger strike in solidarity with Martin and Salvador for 7 days. You can read his reflections here. Another group called Starving4Justice also joined Martin and Salvador’s fast for several days.
Martin agreed to share some of his story with Standing on the Side of Love. His advocacy for immigration reform in the United States is greatly inspired by his experiences as a young man in Honduras.
My name is Martin Altamirano, I am graduated in my country Honduras in General Mechanic in 1986. I am a 45 years old, I came the first time to U.S. in 1992 and return and stay in U.S. since 1994, I am divorced and have 3 Kids, 21 years old and 17 years old undocumented Daughters, and one 4 years old American boy.
I born and was raised influenced with the teaching of a intelligent, brave rebel, with mystic knowledge, full of love and extraordinary human being, a carpenter of name Jesus of Nazareth.
While I was student in the Germany and Honduras Technical College I did get the good luck to meet in person a extraordinary man called Miguel Angel Pavon, who was also member of the Honduras Association for the Human Right Protection. He was shot dead on 14 January 1988, because He gave evidence before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights on three cases against the Honduran Government concerning disappearances in Honduras between 1981 and 1984. Miguel Angel Pavon also leave a legacy to follow in my life of looking for the good of others in a pacifist way even if exposing your own life.
In 1986 after I graduate, looking to help in my community, I did learn about a community that is today known as The Red Cross. Unfortunately after five years of be a volunteer member, one volunteer co worker of name Carlos Rene Vasquez was killed for the Honduras Army associating him with a anti governmental violent group. This fact touch me very deep, for the possibility to have spent time helping my community with a extraordinary man who possibly was looking to make society changes for good of others but in a violent way. I don’t blame Carlos if he did but I don’t share the violent methods. Somehow I was start to be under persecution in my country by state intelligence and police services, only by circumstantial facts and suspicions, forcing me to emigrate first to Belize to feel safe, and after travel to U.S. The land of the free.
The Hunger Strike is the result of a work team: I am the Idea supplier, supported for Richard Pelligrino and his organization the Cobb Immigrant Alliance, La casa del Inmigrante of Norcross Georgia, The Honduran Association Inc. and my team partners Salvador Zamora and Rev. Jeff Jones. As part of the activity, we was looking for alternative tools to protest against oppression that the system is doing against immigrants. We make good choice when we did it because of what we achieve. When we start the hunger strike, we had several goals to achieve. One was to protest SB87. We was asking also to stop deportation process of not criminal people. White House already change this policy and was one achievement. Those person will start to produce and contribute to U.S. economy.
We are asking to the federal government: provide a way for undocumented immigrants start to contribute out of the shadow to the U.S. economy and pay taxes, allowing them to have access to the public schools to learn English. In this moment that is not possible under some states regulations like in Georgia. Allow them to receive a Drivers License to be able to buy a car, a insurance, allow them to buy houses and other basic services that will move on the U.S. economy. The immigrants are warranted NOT with a migratory amnesty, but with a Migratory Reform and Dream Act legislation for the young students at a Federal Level.
The people who are willing to create a better life for others, can affiliate with or support local pro-immigrant organizations to get the message faster and louder to elected officials in every State and to the elected officials in Washington. If you want to help us, you can contact us at the email firstname.lastname@example.org. For right now, it is not finish. It is first step. It is practice. We also asked media to investigate detention corporation contributions to politician in Georgia and for DREAM Act. We will resume in future with more people involved in our movement.