FREEHOLD – Advocates for and members of Freehold Borough’s Latino community are mourning the loss of a person they called a leader in the fight for workers’ rights.
Alejandro Abarca, 32, who lived in Freehold Borough between 2003 and 2007, died two weeks ago in Mexico from injuries he sustained in an automobile accident eight months ago in Mexico.
Frank Argote- Freyre, who chairs the Monmouth County chapter of the New Jersey Latino Leadership Alliance, remembered Abarca as the person who came forward and “pushed for the lawsuit” that was filed against the borough when municipal officials shut down a day laborers muster zone on Throckmorton Street on Dec. 31, 2003.
Earlier that year, Abarca, who was born in Mexico, had helped to form Casa Freehold, an advocacy organization for Latinos. Argote-Freyre said Abarca can be considered to be an “important figure historically in the area.”
Argote-Freyre said members of the alliance are mourning Abarca’s passing.
“He was a leader of the workers and fought for workers’ rights,” Argote-Freyre said. “It is a tragedy to lose someone like that.”
Steve Richter, of Philadelphia, and formerly of Freehold Borough, said Abarca was involved early on in the fight to reopen the muster zone.
“When our darkest hours were upon us, Alejandro was one of the first to come forward,” said Richter, who was an advocate for Freehold Borough’s Latino population. “He gave strength to others and made it easier for others who wanted to help the Latino community by laying the groundwork for them.”
Rita Dentino, a member of Casa Freehold, said she had been in contact with Abarca since his accident. She said he had undergone a number of spinal surgeries and died from complications of the most recent operation.
Dentino called Abarca a “leader” of workers in the area and a “social activist.”
According to Dentino, Abarca was a medical in Mexico. As a member of Casa Freehold, in addition to teaching English to immigrants, Abarca was responsible for teaching medical health issues to members of the Latino community.
“He was a person who wanted to unify everyone in the fight for social justice,” she said. “Although he was most visible to us in Freehold, Alejandro was involved in many social causes in other states as well. He helped to raise the level of awareness and education among people so that they would understand their
Dentino said Abarca was instrumental in helping to organize an alternate employment site for Freehold’s day laborers in 2004, following the closing of the muster zone.
A Mass was celebrated at St. Rose of Lima Church on June 26 and a memorial service remembering Abarca’s life was held on July 1. Abarca left the United States about a year ago to rejoin his wife in Mexico. He is survived by his wife and a 5-year-old son.