MARSHALLTOWN, Iowa -- If you walk down the square in Marshalltown, you’ll notice Mexican shops blend perfectly into the small town facade.
If you talk to any Mexican residents there, they’ll tell you just because you blend in, doesn’t mean you’re accepted.
“I’ve gotten offended a couple times just walking down the street. People tell me to go back to my country,” said Brandon Avalos, an 11th grade Marshalltown High School student.
With political changes over the last year, the gates have opened for racist comments directed toward a variety of people.
“People say ‘Oh ICE is coming, Oh ICE is here. You should be careful.’ I was like, really, do they not realize I have papers, my family has papers,” said Christina Guevara, a 9th grade student.
On Monday afternoon, people in Marshalltown worked to reduce that tension. About 100 people gathered to take part in a national campaign called Not In Our Town. The campaign aims to unite people to take a stand against racism.
People of all shapes, sizes, and colors got together to talk. They shared stories and even ice cream, all in the hopes of knocking down some walls.
“You change it by working together and getting to know each other and celebrating those things you have in common, not your differences,” said Marshalltown Mayor James Lowrance.
Samantha Vance, one of the organizers of the event, has lived in Marshalltown her whole life and said she has seen how the Mexican community has helped Marshalltown grow for the better. She knows this event will not end racism altogether, but she is optimistic people can keep talking with each other.
“We just continue the conversation to make sure it doesn’t end today. So, eventually, those conversations will just turn into the way of life and we hopefully won’t have to have them any more,” said Vance.
For now, residents will keep talking and sharing, no matter how discouraging others maybe.
“I was born and raised in Marshalltown," said Avalos. "This is my hometown."