photo: Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times
Saint Toribio Romo Gonzalez, praised by immigrants, visits Los Angeles amidst illegal immigration protests.
You may not have heard of Saint Toribio, but when he was alive, he was called Romo Gonzalez. He was a Catholic priest who died in 1928 in the midst of a religious uprising, and he was canonized by the Catholic Church in 2000. Since he was made a saint, Saint Toribio has become a legendary symbol for many Latino people, and he has become known as the patron saint of immigrants. A statue and relic of him are currently visiting Los Angeles, and the crowds have turned up in their thousands to pay their respects to him.
Many who have travelled to the United States of America, crossing the borders illegally, have claimed that it was Saint Toribio who helped them get there safely. Many believe that they have seen him, wearing a cowboy hat, by borders and in the desert when they were in need. Jose Ochoa managed to make his way to America with a photograph of Saint Toribio in his pocket in 2005, and he believes that it was the saint who helped him reach his family safely. Near the border in Santa Ana de Guadalupe, Saint Toribio’s hometown, there is now a shrine to him.
However, the arrival of the statue of the state has caused concern as well as devotion. Many protesters went to where the statue was going to be in order to protest against illegal immigration. With protestors and counter-protestors in the streets, the tensions rose so high that the feds were required to be a calming presence in the crowds. Buses of illegal immigrants will go by the protesters, and many hope that violence will not break out. After all, Saint Toribio is meant to be a calming influence – however, even with a Saint’s presence, no one is taking any chances.