Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Protest At Mexican Consulate In Chicago Ignited By Mexican Civic Society's Ouster From Bicentennial Grito Event

Manuel Rodríguez Arriaga
Mexican Consul General in Chicago

Mexican Civic Society cancels annual downtown independence parade and related festivities in protest

By H. Nelson Goodson
August 2, 2010

Chicago, Illinois - On Tuesday, a group of Mexican-Americans are expected to march and protest in front of the Mexican Consulate in Chicago. The group is protesting the decision of Consul General Manuel Rodríguez Arriaga to keep the Mexican Civic Society (MCS) from participating in this year's only Bicentennial Celebration of Mexico's Independence and the Centennial of the Mexican Revolution, according to a press release by Yvette Anna Soto from Chicago. Soto is part of several Chicago residents who are spear heading the protest along with Maria Alva, both community activists.
Alva says, the group is motivated by making sure the Hispanic, especially the Mexican and Mexican-American communities are fairly treated and represented in the Bicentennial celebrations. Soto is expecting over 50 people at the protest. They received over 1,000 signatures of support and the list is growing, according to Alva. 
On late Monday, Evelia Rodriguez, Media and Public Relations representative for the Mexican Civic Society of Illinois (Sociedad Civica Mexicana) confirmed that Board of Directors and members of the MCS will also be participating at the protest.
Both Soto and Alva are self financing and coordinating Tuesday's protest and don't belong to MCS, but do support the afluent organization, which has provided generations of the Chicago Mexican community with culture, festivals, famous Mexican midwest parade and the MCS Queen Pageant in the last 40 years.
Apparently, Consul Arriaga was granted the permit for El Grito by the City of Chicago to hold the celebration. The Mexican government provided the Mexican Consulates that serve large Mexican populations with funds to help celebrate the Bicentennial event.
In this case, Consul Arriaga went one step further, he took control of the event and hired a company to sell "El Grito" event to major corporations like Citi-Bank, McDonald's and others in the Chicago area. It seems, Arriaga is counting on profiting from El Grito some will argue, and leaving one of the foremost respected organizations like La Sociedad Civica Mexicana from participating. A political move, if any or just bad judgement that will most likely cost the Mexican Consulate in Chicago to be blamed for creating division among the very community it should serve.
Arriaga duties are to serve the Mexican community with legalize documents and services for Mexican citizens and to represent the interests of the Mexican government. But to engage in what is being alleged by Chicago organizations, groups, and the community as a profit venture for his own personal gain has raised legal questions. Such questions as transparency, accountability of funds and who actually profits after all? Questions that will linger on long after Arriaga gets reassigned.
The MCS has tried numerous times to meet with Arriaga, but has ignored meeting with them. Maybe, it's time for Mexican President Felipe Calderón to step in and help the Chicago Mexican community to come together and celebrate the Bicentennial, since Mexican citizens alone in the Chicago area have sent billions of U.S. dollars into Mexico's economy for decades.
Instead, Consul Arriaga has accomplished one thing notable in Chicago's community and that is to divide and avoid working with reputable community organizations like the Mexican Civic Society and others, according to Chicago residents in the Mexican community.
This year they were apparently left out of the planning and steering committee for the Bicentennial celebration. In June, the MCS held a press conference to announced their decision to cancel the Mexican Independence Day parade in September.
Rodríguez says, the MCS annual cost to hold both the parade and El Grito is about $138,000. Since, Consul Arriaga has taken away El Grito from us and decided to exclude us from the bicentennial celebration, we can't offer sponsorship for both the annual parade and El Grito to corporations and local businesses.
We decided to cancel the parade and haven't collected any sponsorship, especially if we can't offically offer both to sponsors.
The parade is usually done on a Saturday, a week before September 16, and El Grito is done after September 15 at midnight on September 16.
Board members of the MCS have said, they will try and meet with Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley to discuss the critical matter effecting the Hispanic community at large.
In May, MCS held their weekend Cinco de Mayo celebration at Chicago's Navy Pier and then began to seek sponsorships for both the annual parade and El Grito. Later, MCS discovered Arraiga wouldn't offically recognize and include them in the upcoming bicentennial celebration.
So far, Arriaga or the Consulate in Chicago haven't released or posted in their website any type of press release with information concerning the Consul General's decision to exclude or continue their partnership with the Mexican Civic Society. Attempts to reach Consul Arriaga were unsuccessful.
In prior years the MCS planned and organized the annual 16 de septiembre celebration and had invited the Mexican General Consul as protocol for the honors of El Grito.
It seems that MCS and the Consul General have a difference of opinion and conflicting desire venue of entertainment. MCS would like to have mariachis, folkloric dancers and regional norteño Mexican bands and duranguense music popular with Chicago's community. But, Arriaga is advocating for a symphony orchestra and opera singers popular with the cultural arts community, which in any case, both entertainment venues allowed could very well serve and provide an awesome event.
Soto says, "many in the community are upset with Consul Arriaga for excluding MCS from the Bicentennial celebration of "El Grito de Independencia...the community is taking matters into their own hands to let their displeasure known to Arriaga by protesting...and will continue to protest until Consul Arriaga does what is correct and include the MCS as Co-presenters as he previously stated in early 2009," Soto wrote.
The group will begin protesting at 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday, August 3rd at the Mexican Consulate in Chicago, 204 S. Ashland Ave. The protest is in support of the MCS and to show that the Mexican community in Chicago is united and are calling for Consul General Arriaga to leave politics and profits aside and allow MCS to participate, instead of dividing the community it serves.
In early March, Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley during a reception at the Chicago Cultural Center, proclaimed and helped kick off the 2010 Year of Mexico in Chicago celebrations.
“In Chicago, we celebrate the diversity of our neighborhoods and respect the culture and rich traditions of all of our residents,” said Mayor Daley. “The success of Mexicans in Chicago is the result of years of hard work, strong family values and dedication to community.”
At the kick off, the Mexican Consulate announced the Chicago Symphony, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Chicago Sinfonietta were part of upcoming bicentennial celebration and 70 other culural events were planned. The Consulate had been working for the last three years to get museums, nonprofits, universities and other cultural institutions from Chicago, Indiana and Wisconsin to help plan for a broad program of cultural activies during the celebration. It reported about 50 participants had already planned activities. But the Consulate left the Sociedad Civica Mexicana (MCS) out of the actual planning committee.
In 2010, Mexico and predominately Mexican-American communities with roots in Mexico will commemorate the bicentennial (200 years) of its Mexico's Independence and centennial (100 years) of the Revolution. On September 16, 1810 is the day of the " Grito de Dolores" or Miguel Hidalgo's call to take up arms against the Spanish colonial government. The start of the Mexican Revolution is celebrated November 20, 1910, when Francisco "Pancho" Villa and Pascual Orozco led the first insurrectionist attack.

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