How Facebook became a lifeline for immigrant bicycle ambassadors

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It was Monday evening in June when César Solano Catalán heard that two of his cycling comrades had been robbed of a bridge on Willis Avenue, a thousand meters of lattice structure running from Harlem to the Bronx.

At 10:45 p.m., one of the couriers sent a message El Diario de los Deliveryboys en la Gran Manzana (The Diary of the Delivery Boys in the Big Apple), a Facebook page run by Solano with his five uncles. The message urged distribution workers to take precautions when crossing the bridge because two bicycles had been stolen that evening. When Solano finished dinner with his uncle, he sent messages for a group discussion of the workers and assembled the group to arrive at the bridge. Together, they escorted their partner across the bridge and helped them deliver their orders safely. That night, Solano and other editorial workers committed to work that the NYPD doesn’t do.

NYC food suppliers have become part of the growing workforce of gig workers. They demand strong security protocols to respond to violence and theft of electric bicycles; better security protection; support in the event of an injury; and access to toilets in restaurants or public spaces. And some of this movement is repeated on pages like Solano, which use social media as a springboard for personal collective action.

Solano created El Diario de los Deliveryboys en la Gran Manzana in November 2020 after two food-sharing cyclists were killed on the road. The page documents the issues immigrant distributors face in New York and sheds light on the structural inequalities that affect their lives. El Diario has become more than 25,000 followers and has become a community space for distribution workers, mostly from Mexico and Central America, to report attacks and robberies, honor people killed at work, and intensify the fight for security and dignity.

“This page has several purposes: to support colleagues like us without asking for anything in return, either in the event of an error, accident or robbery. We publish everything related to us,” explains Solano, who left San Juan Puerto Montaña in Guerrero’s High Mountain – in southern Mexico at the age of 17. “We had other pages, but they were related to certain groups or nationalities. But we don’t have a flag, color, country, or race. We just help.” diary helps describe the task, Solano says. “It’s called so you can see what food-sharing employees go through on a daily basis.”

According to the law firm New American Economy, almost 1 3 Food suppliers in the state of New York have no documents. Economic hardship and rising unemployment are constantly driving immigrants to food applications that are recommended by word of mouth. If they hear from a relative or community member who has lost their job, Solano explains, they recommend the worst app.

Solano had worked in a double shift as a bus boy in Manhattan after his arrival in the United States and also worked in distribution services like DoorDash to earn extra cash and pay off his overdue debt. When the pandemic began, he was laid off from the restaurant and moved to deliver food full-time by enrolling in the Relay delivery program for its safe hourly rate.

“I work with food apps because I don’t have a boss and I have flexible working hours. I can rest whenever I can. That’s one of the benefits that apps give you, ”Solano says. “But sometimes the apps don’t understand you. The tire drops, your bike is stolen, they don’t answer us. Because we’re self-employed.”

Before whole food was delivered, Solano’s Electric Bicycle was stolen, and the average cost of one can go from $ 1,500 to over $ 4,000. He felt powerless and isolated, with no means of restoring it and without anyone going for guidance.

“You just notified the police, and the police will tell you that here is the report and all. They say they call when they have something, but they never called me. The same thing happened to my uncle and other acquaintances,” confirms Solano, who also created another popularity. Facebook page it contributes to the preservation of his mother tongue, Tlapanec, and emphasizes the customs of the Meꞌphaa people.

El Diario, along with their telegraph and WhatsApp groups, has been at the center of silencing and eliminating marginalized voices, a key strategy led by the organization that responds directly to the communities affected. Whenever an e-bike is stolen, the distribution worker now knows where to ask for help. If the bike still has tracking, a group of three or five members will go looking for it. Or they post a photo on a Facebook page warning members to pay attention if someone tries to sell a stolen bike. If so, they will reorganize and go as a team to restore it.

“I have been involved in the recovery of five bicycles. What makes me happiest is seeing a compañero with the recovered bicycle, ”says Solano. “It’s dangerous. We go without guns, a knife or a razor blade when we go get a bike. It’s like a war without guns. As undocumented immigrants, we have no right or opportunity to carry a gun in self-defense.”

The Willis Avenue Bridge, a key route for many distributors, has seen repeated attacks and robberies. In March, 29-year-old Francisco Villalva Vitinio, also a Guerrero journalist, was shot and killed near the bridge when he refused to give his e-bike to a robber. While waiting for the NYPD to increase security measures, Solano says they will continue to protect themselves. Every night since June 14, they have taken turns watching their colleagues as they cross the bridge on their way to delivery.

“We’ve been there for almost a month and the police have never come to follow us. During the day they give tickets, but at night they do not. What we are doing is terrible, ”Solano adds.

Every stream of error demands justice for its killed partners, or a night spent protecting co-workers despite long working days, El Diario not only earns new followers, but also itself as a digital space with a growing community movement. Movimiento, run by workers carving space in a country that still denies their right to exist.

“We’re not an organization,” Solano explains. “We are editorial boys who want to raise the voice. We demand results and progress. We are food suppliers and we want to come together. “

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