Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Mexican Consul Calls Chicago Police To Disperse Latinos Protesting Arriaga's Decision To Oust Mexican Civic Society From Official Bicentennial Celebration

Manuel Rodríguez Arriaga
Mexican Consul General in Chicago

Protest photos courtesy of Yvette Anna Soto

If the situation worsens and Arriaga doesn't comply with President Calderon's call to unite the community during the Bicentennial celebration, he won't be the Consul in Chicago for long, according to SRE sources in Mexico.

By H. Nelson Goodson
August 4, 2010

Chicago, Illinois - On Tuesday, more than 50 Latino community members and representatives of various community based organizations converged outside the Mexican Consulate in Chicago to protest. They are protesting Consul General Manuel Rodríguez Arriaga decision to keep several Hispanic groups and the Mexican Civic Society (MCS) from officially participating in the upcoming Bicentennial celebration of Mexico's 200 years of Independence.
The Mexican Civic Society for the last 40 years has officially sponosred the Mexican Independence Parade and festivities del "Grito." The non-profit organization is composed of hundreds of community volunteers of Mexican descent. The organization has provided cultural arts, events and activities to a large majority of Mexican-Americans, Mexican citizens and Chicago residents throughout the area.
Recently, Mexican President Felipe Calderon sent out a message calling for everyone to come together and help celebrate Mexico's Independence Bicentennial and the Centennial of the Revolution. Even, Chicago's Mexican Consul has posted in its website: It seems Consul Arriaga has not read the message himself, because his personal decision to keep the Mexican Civic Society of Illinois from officially participating is contrary to President Calderon's call for all Mexicans to come together and celebrate the Bicentennial. (link
Arriaga remained defiant and has not commented on the current cultural and bicentennial celebration crisis the Mexican Consulate in Chicago is facing. If the situation worsens and Arriaga doesn't comply with President Calderon's call to unite the community during the Bicentennial celebration he won't be the Consul in Chicago for long, according to SRE sources in Mexico.
Consul Arriaga ordered Consulate officials to call Chicago police to disperse the gathering of protesters outside the Consulate. Police arrived, but were unable to remove the protesters as they were exercising their rights to protest.
For the last three years the Mexican Consul had been reaching out to non-profits, museums, cultural arts institutes, universities and other entities, but failed to include a large portion of the Mexican community including MCS. MCS organizers say that they were part of the bicenntennial celebration and Arriaga had included them, until early 2009 when they discovered Arriaga had excluded them from participating.
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.
On Wednesday, Evelia Rodríguez, Media and Public Relations of the Mexican Civic Society 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.
In 2008, 21 community organizations representing the Mexican community sent a letter to President Felipe Calderón complaining about Consul Arriaga, who took office in April 2007.
The complaint alleged Arriaga was arrogant, disputes, disrespected people, and ignored the needs of the Mexican community in Chicago. Arriaga lacked to understand his responsibilities that come with the job.
They even wrote Calderón that Arriaga verbally attacks and offends leaders of the Mexican community based organizations looking to divide the community, reported El Diario Hoy from the Chicago Tribune.
Numerous members of the Institute for Mexicans Abroad (IME) even supported the allegations made by the 21 community organizations. IME members alleged Arriaga was not fullfilling his duties by working with the community and had neglected to attend community events in Wisconsin when invited.
Arriaga supposedly represents the Mexican government in Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin. Arriaga failed to comment or respond to the allegations made by the organizations in 2008.
In brief: In 2004, the Mexican Consulate created the Fiesta Patrias Mexicanas (FPM) committee after MCS in 2003 removed their president for not providing financial records to the organization. MCS ended up in a court battle over the issue and a judge issued an order suspending all MCS activities.
Then in 2004, FPM organized El Grito at the Mexican Consulate parking lot and in 2005 and 2006 they were able to acquire Pritzker Pavillion at Millenium Park in downtown Chicago.
In 2007, MCS once again began to operate efficiently and reclaimed El Grito event as it had presented for more than 30 years to the Chicago community, but weren't able to come into an agreement with FPM to join efforts in organizing El Grito. By than, both groups decided to do their own event, according to report.
Mexican Consulate sources are claiming that MCS were unable to hold the ceremonies of El Grito in 2006, 2007 and 2009, which the FPM took over the ceremonies.
This year, MCS says Arriaga led them to believe they would be included in the Bicentennial Celebration through several meetings, but later recanted and excluded them from officially participating in the event. The FPM committee disagreed with Arriaga's decision, but they had no alternative since the Consulate controls the activities of the committee and Consul Arriaga has the final say in the decision making. MCS was reluctantly excluded from the Bicentennial Celebration, according to FPM sources.
Another protest in front of the Mexican Consulate in Chicago, 204 S. Ashland Ave. is being planned for next week. MCS and community organizers say, they plan to make it larger and expect the particpation of folkloric dances and more.

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

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