Waving Mexican flag gave the wrong message
Arizona Daily Star
April 3, 2006

Tucson, Arizona | Published: 04.03.2006



Our view: Reacting to student protests, community is more sensitive about foreign symbols, in part because of 9/11 attacks


When you want to relay an important message, clarity is vital. You don't want to send mixed signals or express your views in a way that can be misinterpreted or, even worse, seen as a threat.


We bring this up because protesters who have rallied against possible immigration reforms in the Legislature and Congress are apparently confusing a lot of people in our community.


In demonstrations and school walkouts in Tucson and other cities, the participants said they want to be contributing members of the United States. Then they shouted, "Viva Mexico."


They said they wanted to remain part of the American fabric. Then they waved Mexican flags.


They said they are willing to be assimilated into our culture and learn our language. But many of their placards were written in Spanish.


There were also American flags, English chants and English placards at these demonstrations. But if the goal of the protests was to sway people toward supporting immigrant rights, why risk alienating others with symbols and words that are not American?

When you are seeking allies, it helps not to create foes.


Concerning the student protests in Tucson, Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne said Friday that flying the Mexican flag "tactically was a big mistake."


John A. Garcia, a political science professor at the University of Arizona, said the behavior of the protesters is understandable. Many Mexican immigrants and their supporters feel their culture is being attacked, he said, so they defend themselves by displaying that culture.


"Part of who they are is being attacked and denigrated. They're being portrayed as a horde coming across the border," Garcia said. "They are proud of who they are, but their Mexican side is being run through the coals."


Immigrants in general are very proud of where they come from. In the recent World Baseball Classic, Americans of Mexican, Japanese, Korean and Dominican descent, among others, heartily cheered for their teams.


But when it comes to immigration, it seems that displaying a little national pride is counterproductive.


Flying the Mexican flag only gives more ammunition to critics of illegal border crossers who call them invaders. Shouting "Viva Mexico" and holding up Spanish placards sends the wrong message about assimilating into American society.


The use of Mexican symbols in U.S. protests isn't new. Chicano protesters in the '60s also waved the Mexican flag. When the late César Chávez was forming the United Farm Workers union, the Virgin of Guadalupe, a popular Mexican symbol, was prominent in marches.


The recent protests are different. Our community is more sensitive about foreign symbols.


Garcia said one factor could be the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.


"The attacks increased feelings of nativism, nationalism, patriotism," Garcia said. "A lot of people feel we have to close ranks as Americans. It's us versus them."


Or it could be this issue is eroding our tolerance for each other. After years of inaction, lawmakers are finally attempting to forge a solution for illegal immigration and no one — whether they've lived here 50 years or five — quite knows what to expect.


As the issue drags on in legislatures and Congress, there are sure to be more protests.


We remind members of our community, no matter which side of the issue they're on, to remain civil.


No matter what symbols you see or display, don't be quick to offend or to be offended.