Mex­i­can flag casts gi­ant shadow on Obama at bor­der

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY STEPHEN DI­NAN

EL PASO, Texas | It’s usu­ally a re­li­able rule of thumb that ev­ery­thing is big­ger in Texas, and in the U.S. in gen­eral - ev­ery­thing, that is, ex­cept for flags.

Dom­i­nat­ing the south­ern hori­zon at Chamizal Na­tional Me­mo­rial Park, the site on the U.S.-Mex­ico bor­der where Pres­i­dent Obama de­liv­ered his ma­jor im­mi­gra­tion speech on May 10, was a gi­ant Mex­i­can flag, ded­i­cated by that coun­try’s pres­i­dent in 1997 with the ex­press pur­pose of re­mind­ing Amer­i­cans that they must pay at­ten­tion to their neigh­bors to the south.

The flag lit­er­ally hung over Mr. Obama’s visit to this bor­der city: It was in the back­ground as he toured a cargo-in­spec­tion fa­cil­ity, and could be seen pok­ing out over the top of the back­drop as he spoke to hun­dreds of sup­port­ers, urg­ing them to pres­sure Congress to le­gal­ize il­le­gal aliens.

Lo­cals said it can be seen through­out much of the rest of town, and is a stark re­minder of the city’s lo­ca­tion on the bor­der.

“It hits you from ev­ery an­gle,” Rick Me­len­drez, an El Paso res­i­dent who years ago led a cam­paign to erect an Amer­i­can flag to com­pete with the Mex­i­can banner, told The Wash­ing­ton Times in a tele­phone in­ter­view.

Mr. Me­len­drez, a Demo­cratic ac­tivist here, said he thought a com­pet­ing Amer­i­can flag would be a source of pride for El Paso res­i­dents. But en­thu­si­asm for his pro­ject pe­tered out years ago in the face of the $300,000 price tag.

Still, he said he wishes he could get the cam­paign go­ing again, and even has a lo­ca­tion in mind: one of the Franklin Moun­tain peaks that jut up north of the city.

One Amer­i­can park ranger said the Mex­i­can flag ap­pears dur­ing hol­i­days and ma­jor events. Soon af­ter Mr. Obama de­parted El Paso, the flag came down, sug­gest­ing Mex­i­can of­fi­cials had raised it just to pro­vide a back­drop for the pres­i­dent’s visit.

The Mex­i­can flag, one of a num­ber of “ban­deras mon­u­men­tales,” or big flags, that Mex­i­can of­fi­cials have erected in cities along the bor­der, sits in a park in Juarez, the Mex­i­can city mir­ror­ing El Paso.

“This flag will re­mind ev­ery­one across the bor­der that we are a sov­er­eign nation,” then-Mex­i­can Pres­i­dent Ernesto Zedillo said in 1997 at a cer­e­mony ded-

“This flag will re­mind ever yone across the bor­der that we are a sov­er­eign nation,” then-Mex­i­can Pres­i­dent Ernesto Zedillo said in 1997 at a cer­e­mony ded­i­cat­ing the flag. “It is also a re­minder that we are an in­de­pen­dent nation ready to de­fend its peo­ple wher­ever they may be.”

icat­ing the flag. “It is also a re­minder that we are an in­de­pen­dent nation ready to de­fend its peo­ple wher­ever they may be.”

The Dal­las Morn­ing News said the flag is 164-by-94 feet, or about half the size of a foot­ball field. Lo­cals in El Paso said it takes a pla­toon of dozens of Mex­i­can sol­diers to take the flag down and the flag fills an en­tire pickup truck bed when packed away. Its flag­pole rises over 300 feet.

The bor­der it­self is a dom­i­nant fac­tor for El Paso, and Chamizal Park, where Mr. Obama spoke, ex­ists be­cause of that bor­der. It was es­tab­lished to com­mem­o­rate a peace­ful set­tle­ment to a 100-year-long bor­der dis­pute, born out of the chang­ing path of the Rio Grande, the river which sep­a­rates the two coun­tries. An 1864 flood changed the river’s course, mov­ing it fur­ther south and giv­ing the U.S. ex­tra ter­ri­tory, which was dis­puted un­til the 1960s.

Mr. Obama didn’t men­tion the Mex­i­can flag in his speech, but he did touch on flag im­agery, re­count­ing a re­cent grad­u­a­tion ad­dress he de­liv­ered at Mi­ami Dade Col­lege, which claims stu­dents whose fam­i­lies hail from some 181 coun­tries.

“At the cer­e­mony, 181 flags, one for ev­ery nation that was rep­re­sented, was marched across the stage, and each one was ap­plauded by the grad­u­ates and the rel­a­tives with ties to those coun­tries,” Mr, Obama said. “But then the last flag, the Amer­i­can flag, came into view, and ev­ery­one in the room erupted in ap­plause. Ev­ery­body cheered.”

He added, “So, yes, their par­ents or grand­par­ents, some of the grad­u­ates them­selves, had come from ev­ery cor­ner of the globe. But it was here that they had found op­por­tu­nity. It was here that they had a chance to con­trib­ute to the nation that is their home.”

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Mes­sage to Amer­ica: A Mex­i­can flag flut­ters in the dis­tance May 10 as the mo­tor­cade of Pres­i­dent Obama heads to­ward the Bridge of Amer­ica Cargo Fa­cil­ity in El Paso, Texas, dur­ing his visit to the U.S.-Mex­ico bor­der to speak about im­mi­gra­tion re­form. Mex­ico also had a gi­ant flag at the bor­der to re­mind Amer­i­cans of the countr y’s sovereignty.

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