© 2020 Iowa Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
IPR News

Local Business Turns Complaints Into Conversation Piece

A sign on a lawn says "WE BELIEVE BLACK LIVES MATTER, NO HUMAN IS ILLEGAL, LOVE IS LOVE, Women's Rights Are Human Rights, SCIENCE IS REAL, WATER IS LIFE, Injustice Anywhere Is a Threat to Justice Everywhere"
Alfonso Medina
Alfonso Medina put up this sign in front of his restaurant La Carreta. When it upset some people, Medina said it was a perfect way to strike up conversation in the community. "Investing back in the same community that basically makes us what we are today. That's our motto, and it's worked for us," Medina said.

A restaurant in Marshalltown put up a poster that seems to have divided the community. The owner says he has turned the controversy into a way to encourage conversation.

Last month, a sign appeared in front of La Carreta, a Mexican restaurant in Marshalltown. It read Black Lives Matter, no human is illegal and other human rights phrases. Alfonso Medina owns and works at the restaurant. He’s the one who decided to put it up.

Since then, Medina received letters from people who said they were offended by the sign. He got another one yesterday. He posted the letter on Facebook and hundreds of community members commented with their support. Medina said it turns out the letters brought the community together.

“I decided to share it to just show people how you can take something negative, always in life and turn it into a positive," Medina said.

He said he wishes his response to the complaints could inspire other small business owners not just in Iowa, but also in the country. He said he wants small Latino businesses to know they have a political voice, just like other white-owned businesses. He mentioned Chick-fil-A and Hobby Lobby as examples. In the past, the chicken restaurant has donated to organizations criticized for anti-LGBTQ attitudes. Hobby Lobby is a Christian-owned business that has openly shared religious and political views.

The letters, Medina said, can encourage more conversation among community members, which can motivate open mindedness.

“[The letter] does not concern me much. I mean, if anything, makes you happy that it's creating conversation, because that's what people need to do," Medina said. "And if it changes one or two people's opinion or, maybe not change their opinion, but understand how people in other shoes, think or feel, then that's a win for me, even if it's one person."

La Carreta has helped the community by providing food during the pandemic and the aftermath of the derecho storm, so Medina says the letters won’t break his spirit.