Freedom of expression or cultural disrespect on Cinco de Mayo?
NBC BAYAREA By GEORGE KIRIYAMA
On any other day at Live Oak High School in Morgan Hill, Daniel Galli and his four friends would not even be noticed for wearing T-shirts with the American flag. But Cinco de Mayo is not any typical day especially on a campus with a large Mexican American student population.
Galli says he and his friends were sitting at a table during brunch break when the vice principal asked two of the boys to remove American flag bandannas that they wearing on their heads and for the others to turn their American flag T-shirts inside out. When they refused, the boys were ordered to go to the principal’s office.
“They said we could wear it on any other day,” Daniel Galli said, “but today is sensitive to Mexican-Americans because it’s supposed to be their holiday so we were not allowed to wear it today.”
The boys said the administrators called their T-shirts “incendiary” that would lead to fights on campus.
“They said if we tried to go back to class with our shirts not taken off, they said it was defiance and we would get suspended,” Dominic Maciel, Galli’s friend, said.
The boys really had no choice, and went home to avoid suspension. They say they’re angry they were not allowed to express their American pride. Their parents are just as upset, calling what happened to their children, “total nonsense.”
“I think it’s absolutely ridiculous,” Julie Fagerstrom, Maciel’s mom, said. “All they were doing was displaying their patriotic nature. They’re expressing their individuality.”
But to many Mexican-American students at Live Oak, this was a big deal. They say they were offended by the five boys and others for wearing American colors on a Mexican holiday.
“I think they should apologize cause it is a Mexican Heritage Day,” Annicia Nunez, a Live Oak High student, said. “We don’t deserve to be get disrespected like that. We wouldn’t do that on Fourth of July.”
As for an apology, the boys and their families say, “fat chance.”
“I’m not going to apologize. I did nothing wrong,” Galli said. “I went along with my normal day. I might have worn an American flag, but I’m an American and I’m proud to be an American.”
The five boys and their families met with a Morgan Hill Unified School District official Wednesday night. The district released a statement saying it does not agree with how Live Oak High School administrators handled this incident.
The boys will not be suspended and they were told they can go back to school Thursday. They may even wear their red, white, and blue colors again, but this time, the day after Cinco de Mayo, there will be no controversy.
Morgan Hill high school under national microscope
NBC BAYAREA – By JESSICA GREENE
Some parents of students at Live Oak High School in Morgan Hill are keeping their kids home from school after tension related to an incident involving students wearing American flag clothing on Cinco de Mayo spilled out onto the streets.
The students wore T-shirts depicting the flag to school on Wednesday. Administrators told the boys the clothes could be “incendiary” and asked them turn the shirts inside-out or face suspension. The boys refused so they were sent home.
The controversy quickly spread over the Internet and became national news.
Now, the school district is sending a message to parents about the heated issue, assuring them that students will not be suspended, and that students are allowed to wear patriotic clothing.
The message was delivered from Superintendent Wesley Smith through both a letter and a voicemail. Here is the full text:
Good evening. This is Dr. Wesley Smith, Superintendent of the Morgan Hill Unified School District. The Morgan Hill Unified School District does not prohibit nor do we discourage wearing patriotic clothing. The incident on May 5 at Live Oak High School is extremely unfortunate. While campus safety is our primary concern and administrators made decisions yesterday in an attempt to ensure campus safety, students should not, and will not, be disciplined for wearing patriotic clothing. This situation and our response are under review.
We know that this is an emotionally charged topic. We would ask you to encourage your students to be safe and focus on their academics while in school. If conversations and/or activities are necessary to express their feelings on this issue, we will find appropriate venues that do not disturb student learning or jeopardize the safety of our students. Furthermore, we encourage everyone to demonstrate respect for each other, open communication, and responsibility.
Thank you for your support and understanding.
Dr. Wesley Smith
On Thursday, about 200 Mexican-American students walked out of class in protest of the flag clothing incident. Members of the group waved the Mexican flag and said they were marching for respect and unity. They also demanded the school suspend the boys who wore the U.S. flag-adorned clothing.
As a result of this heated debate, other Bay Area schools by the name of Live Oak have been threatened. The Live Oak School District in Santa Cruz County has received several calls from people angry about the issue, even though they are in no way involved in the Morgan Hill school’s issue. That district’s superintendent believes it’s just a same-name misunderstanding and lack of clarity in reporting the school’s location.
Administrators at Live Oak High School in Sutter County say they’ve also recieved violent threats. The sheriff there is concerned that a person who threatened to shoot up the school or plant a bomb may follow through.
The story has sparked an outcry from groups and individuals across the country, including a high school student in Yorktown, Va., who created a Facebook page titled “I support the 5 students from Morgan Hill high school.” As of Friday morning, the fast-growing group had more than 1,850 members.
Houston Chronicle – By OSCAR CASARES
With a brutal drug war still raging in the Mexican border towns of Reynosa and Ciudad Juarez, and now the fear of a strict immigration bill in Arizona that makes it a crime to not carry immigration documents, you might think Mexicans would look forward to something worth celebrating, like Cinco de Mayo. But for most Mexicans today is just another Wednesday, or el miércoles, the third day of the week.
If they had to get up this morning for a job they are not particularly fond of, then they might have referred to it as el pinche miércoles! Today is also just a few weeks after Holy Week, the last time those who could afford it may have taken time off from work to celebrate anything. But otherwise, for the average Mexican, regardless of which side of the border they happen to live on, today is just another Wednesday. All of which is worth noting only because hundreds of cities across the United States, including some in Arizona, are about to celebrate Cinco de Mayo.
Though many people in the U.S. regard this date as a celebration of Mexico’s independence, in truth, Cinco de Mayo marks the Battle of Puebla and the Mexican army’s defeat of a much larger and better-equipped French army attempting to conquer its weakened government. The victory was short-lived, as the French took over the country a year later and remained in power for the next three years.
The battle itself reportedly lasted only from dawn to early evening on May 5, 1861. Compared to Mexico’s fight for independence against the Spanish empire, a struggle that lasted for more than 10 years, or the U.S.-Mexico War, which led to the defeated nation losing two-thirds of its territory — including those areas now known as Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California — the Battle of Puebla was little more than a skirmish in the country’s long and bloody history. Today in Mexico, Cinco de Mayo will be commemorated primarily in the state of Puebla and recognized during a small ceremony in the capitol.
The holiday, which has never really been much of one in Mexico, crossed over to this side of the border in the 1950s and 1960s, as civil rights activists were attempting to build harmony between the two countries and cultures. The date gained more attention in the 1980s when marketers, particularly beer companies, saw this as a perfect opportunity to capitalize on the celebratory nature of the holiday. This week Cinco de Mayo will be celebrated with festivals and parades in places like Raleigh, North Carolina; Midvale, Utah; Atlanta, Georgia; Omaha, Nebraska; some with large Mexican or Mexican-American populations but many without.
Truth is the more significant holiday for Mexicans is Dieciséis de Septiembre, the start of Mexico’s struggle for independence after almost 300 years of Spanish dominance. In this case, the celebration begins late on September 15, the eve of the actual call for arms. The president of Mexico stands on the balcony of the national palace, gazing out at the hundreds of thousands of his countrymen gathered in the zocalo, and declares Mexico’s independence from outside rule.
So why do we celebrate the lesser of the two Mexican holidays? One reason may be that Cinco de Mayo happens to fall closer to the start of the summer season, only a few weeks before Memorial Day; while Dieciséis de Septiembre, clearly more notable of the two holidays, has the misfortune of falling after summer and Labor Day, when everyone has gone back inside.
Of course, if you happen to not speak Spanish, Cinco de Mayo is much easier to pronounce, no matter of how many margaritas are involved. So a facility with the language and how this lends itself to marketing products around the holiday certainly must also play a role.
Just imagine a beer company trying to fit Dieciséis de Septiembre on a beer koozie.
Every year we prefer to celebrate Mexico’s history on our terms, whether that history is accurate or only convenient. But then again, isn’t the United States’ relationship with Mexico all about convenience?
We want the cheap labor of undocumented workers — cheaper construction workers, cheaper maids, cheaper nannies, cheaper day laborers — but in many places like Arizona, they don’t actually want these same people in our country. We want the benefits they provide, but we don’t want to have to think about the cost of those benefits.
We want their labor, but we don’t want to have to think about them as anything other than labor. To do so would be to acknowledge them as people, acknowledge that they come with a history worth honoring, and maybe, even acknowledge that we are part of the reason they are now here in this country.
Casares, a native of Brownsville, is the author of “Amigoland” and teaches creative writing at the University of Texas at Austin.
Sure, it all makes sense.
Why should American kids be allowed to wear T-shirts with the American flag printed on them in America?
Thankfully one high school administrator was equally outraged and sent the offenders home for it.
Five kids attending Live Oak High School in Morgan Hill, Calif., decided to wear patriotic clothing (T-shirts and bandannas with the American flag on them) on Cinco de Mayo. Assistant Principal Miguel Rodriguez told them that the clothing was inappropriate for the holiday and to ditch the bandannas and turn their shirts inside out or go home.
The kids chose option B. And now the town of Morgan Hill finds itself in the middle of a controversy.
One of the students, Daniel Galli, said school officials told him they could wear their patriotic garb any other day, but “but today is sensitive to Mexican Americans because it’s supposed to be their holiday so we were not allowed to wear it today.”
That’s what Annicia Nunez, another Live Oak High student, thinks: “We don’t deserve to be get disrespected like that. We wouldn’t do that on Fourth of July.”
The school district seems to be wincing at the whole affair releasing a statement Thursday explaining that they “don’t prohibit nor do we discourage wearing patriotic clothing.”
“The incident on May 5 at Live Oak High School is extremely unfortunate,” the statement reads. “While campus safety is our primary concern and administrators made decisions yesterday in an attempt to ensure campus safety, students should not, and will not, be disciplined for wearing patriotic clothing. This matter is under investigation and appropriate action will be taken.”
Meanwhile, the issue has erupted in the blogosphere.
“What country is Morgan Hill in again?” asks conservative blogger Conn Carroll. “When Americans celebrate St. Patrick’s Day or Columbus Day, don’t we always see American flags flying right along side Irish and Italian ones? Why are the Mexican Americans at Live Oak High so insulted by the flag of the country that they live in? Do they not consider themselves Americans first?
Progressives might disagree with Carroll. They may argue that the students’ actions fly in the face of all President Obama has done to apologize to the rest of the world for our country.
Like film critic Roger Ebert. He has a solution.
“Kids who wear American Flag T-shirts on 5 May should have to share a lunchroom table with those who wear a hammer and sickle on 4 July,” he tweeted.
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Morgan Hill Times: Hispanic students march through downtown for respect