LatinaLista — In cities across the country this weekend, there will be Cinco de Mayo celebrations.
Always a chance to see Mexican folklorico dancing, eat tacos, drink flavored aguas and let the children play games, the annual observance has always been a family affair.
Yet, in Colonial Beach, Virginia, the chance to let children be children and families to celebrate with their neighbors has been cancelled because of a telephone call from Homeland Security.
According to the article in the Free Lance-Star, organizers of this year’s Hispanic American Heritage Day were busily getting ready for their third annual community-wide celebration when Maria Roe, a Latino advocate and perhaps (the article didn’t make it clear) one of the organizers of the event, received a phone call from a community relations officer at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office in Arlington, Virginia.
What transpires next is classic she-said-she-said scenario but what is clear is that the intimidation felt by the phone call was enough to cancel this year’s festivities in Colonial Beach.
Roe said, “I asked her why she was interested in this festival. She became very authoritarian and wanted to make sure I knew who she was. She really made me nervous,” said Roe.
“She asked for the physical address of the festival so she could look it up on a map. Do you mean the Department of Homeland Security can’t find Colonial Beach?” Roe said.
“I had to inform the festival committee about that call,” Roe said. “If someone had been taken away, I would have been the cause.”
Though all the different organizations who were helping to put on the event agreed that it should be cancelled in light of Homeland Security’s interest in it, even though the caller said she only wanted to know about the festival so she could set up a table with flyers and brochures about immigration regulations, the cancellation sets a bad precedent.
Just as we as a nation refuse to let terrorists cower us into hiding or alter our everyday routines because they might strike against us, the same should be practiced against a government entity that abuses its power by intimidating and coercing fear in people.
The argument will be made that people illegally here wouldn’t be afraid to appear in public if they didn’t break the law but that is not necessarily true. In many, many cases maybe only one member of the family may be without their papers while the rest of the family are legal citizens.
Yet, the threat felt by that one family member is enough to make the whole family feel under siege.
That any government branch can wield such indiscriminate intimidation harks back to the Cold War days.
It was too good to hope that that kind of intimidation fell with the Berlin Wall.
Yet, it is ironic that this kind of implied threat is being resurrected at the same time the building of a new wall is being debated.