Diego Saul Reyna carried pieces of steel up more than 40 flights just so he could blend into the construction site at the new Trump hotel and tower project in Vancouver. The 30-year-old steel framer is a construction worker, but he wasn’t working on the new building. Instead, he was there to stand up with his “Mexican brothers who worked on that building and were afraid to speak up,” he told Fusion.
Wearing overalls, boots, safety glasses, and a hard hat, Reyna was able to walk into the construction site with a hidden Mexican flag. Carrying the steel got him into an elevator, which took him 20 floors up, but he had to walk the remaining 43 floors to get to the top of the building. He says he got blisters on his heels, and his arms and legs were sore, but he and a Mexican friend encouraged each other all the way. Their goal: to hang their flag on top of Vancouver’s second tallest building.
A picture of Reyna flying the Mexican flag on top of the Trump tower, uploaded to Facebook on Saturday, has been shared nearly 3,000 times on Facebook. The picture comes with a strongly worded message challenging statements made by Donald Trump last June that called Mexicans rapist, drug dealers, and criminals.
Reyna was born in Mexico. He became a permanent resident of Canada in 2011, and he said he feels welcome there, but he fears how Trump’s comments about Mexicans could change the way Canadians perceive immigrants.
In a telephone interview from Vancouver on Monday morning, Reyna told Fusion the story behind his daring feat, the message behind it, and why he’s prepared to face any legal consequences.
When you see this new building with the Trump name on it, what goes through your head?
When Donald Trump says Mexicans are rapists, that includes my mother, my father, and everyone I’ve ever loved in my family. Everyone I admired growing up, like my teachers. That’s what goes through my mind, and he’s spreading that message to the world. There’s too many countries that don’t know [Mexicans], and the only thing they’ve heard about is what Mr. Trump is saying. He’s the most popular person in the world right now, and he’s not saying anything positive. Nothing he says is uplifting.
The picture of you at the top of Trump tower with a Mexican flag has been shared thousand of times. What’s the message you hope people will learn when they see it?
The main message and the bottom line here is Mexicans are not criminals or rapists. People commit crimes, and there’s Mexicans who have committed crimes, but you can’t generalize and blame an entire ethnic group—especially when you benefit from us. We give our work to the countries that we migrate to.
If I were to sum it up in one sentence, the bottom line is we’re not all criminals.
When you started seeing the number of shares go up into the thousands, what did you think?
I never thought the picture would go that viral. I posted it on my page and thought only my friends would see it. I’m not popular, and I’m not that active on social media, so when I saw the shares from all nationalities and ethnic groups I realized my message wasn’t wrong. I realized I didn’t have a delusional attitude. I was right.
How would you say Mexican immigrants are treated in Canada?
Canada is a very tolerant society, and that’s what scares me the most—that when people hear Mr. Trump that [attitude] is going to spill into Canada. Here in Canada, Latinos, Mexicans, everyone is accepted and respected. I know that in the U.S., it’s a different story, but here it’s good.
Comments from Trump will ruin that. I feel threatened. My way of life is threatened; everybody who is a foreigner is threatened.
How would you respond to people that say that’s not your property, that you shouldn’t have done that?
I was wearing my hard hat, my boots, and my vest, and I walked up to a gate and asked a gentleman to let me in. I walked in and asked the gentleman operator to take me to the top and he said, “I’d love to, but because of a delivery I can only take you to the 20th floor.” I said, well, I’ll take that. And I climbed the remaining 40-something floors.
I’m standing up for all Mexican and Muslim construction workers on the site who were too afraid to speak up because they were afraid of losing their permanent resident status, or their work permits or their jobs all together. I look forward to what the future will have, and that includes legal consequences.
The Trump towers and managers have declined to comment [to the press], and I have not been contacted by law enforcement or the people at the tower itself.
You have a two-year-old son named Jalisco. What kind of prime ministers and presidents would you like to see in his lifetime?
Jalisco is my first-generation Mexican son born in Canada. I looked at a data base and he’s the only registered Jalisco in North America.
I would like my son to grow up in a world where presidents see the value of a human being. I believe that no human being is illegal.
What do you think of the current Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau?
Justin Trudeau represents Canadian values. He has a cabinet that is gender-balanced, represents all religions, all races, just like the way Canada is. That’s what makes Canada great. Human beings are seen for what they are.