It’s been quite a week at Las Palmas in Brookline, with the community rallying around the popular mercado and taqueria after someone scrawled “Go back to Mexico Now” on the restaurant’s door earlier this week.
Nathan Mallory, head of the Brookline Chamber of Commerce, said Friday he was pleased, but not that surprised, by the outpouring of support. He was the one who scrubbed the words off the restaurant’s door after being alerted by a resident. “I didn’t want them to have to clean this off the door themselves,” Mallory says.
The South Pittsburgh Development Corp. started a Facebook event “Buy Tacos and Support Las Palmas,” and as of Friday morning, more than 1,000 people had signed up to do just that.
Mayor Bill Peduto visited the restaurant for a taco on Wednesday, and issued a statement saying there was no place in Pittsburgh for a “coward” who would write “pure hatred” on a building. “Las Palmas has been a staple of this community and brings people to Brookline,” the mayor’s statement read.
Mallory said given the current anti-immigrant sentiment at the national political level, it’s not wise to brush off this kind of graffiti as just an obnoxious prank. “This is an opportunity to show we are not going to tolerate intolerance on any level, especially not in our own neighborhood.”
He says he asked Palmas owner Gabriel Berumen whether anything like this had ever happened before. “He said ‘yes, I’ve had the tires on the Las Palmas van slashed,’ and he’s heard and seen other racist comments,” Mallory said. “He seemed to think it was just business as normal. And I said, ‘but it shouldn’t be.’”
Mallory says he was hoping to do something beyond the Facebook event, but needed help with the organizing end of things. He did not have to look far, enlisting the aid of Sister Janice Vanderneck at community center Casa San Jose to coordinate a rally on Saturday at Las Palmas. The rally will start at noon at the restaurant, at 700 Brookline Boulevard.
‘‘It’s vitally important that we come together as community activists, people of faith, and labor advocates to say that we categorically reject this hateful act of vandalism directed at Pittsburgh’s Mexican community,” Guillermo Perez, President of the Pittsburgh chapter of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement. “Immigrant workers and their families are making vital contributions to the economic and social well-being of our city and so it’s critical that people of conscience in Pittsburgh loudly condemn this horrible act. Our future as a city depends on it.”
Mallory says he’s proud of how Brookline has rallied around Las Palmas. “The Latino community in Brookline and Beechview are our neighbors. We’re going to show them we’re with them.”