Use of Mexican flags in protests raises questions
(3/30/06 - KTRK/HOUSTON) (KTRK) -- Dozens of Houston students were arrested or cited Thursday and a principal was disciplined for flying a Mexican flag in front of his school as protests continued across Texas over immigration legislation in Congress.
Robert Pambello, principal of Reagan High School where 88 percent of the students are Hispanic, was disciplined after hoisting the Mexican flag below the American and Texas flags that usually fly in front of his school. District officials instructed him to lower the Mexican flag a few hours later and he complied.
"He's a good educator who's done good things at that school," Houston school district spokesman Terry Abbott said. "In this case he's made a mistake in judgment and he's been appropriately disciplined for it. It's appropriate for only the U.S. and Texas flags to fly in front of schools."
Abbott said he could not further discuss Pambello's punishment because it was a personnel matter.
We've heard a lot from viewers about these student protests since they began. One image that seemed to stick with many folks is that of students carrying Mexican flags. We've gotten dozens of emails who all want to know if they are marching for the right to remain here, why aren't they lifting the flag of this country?
Put it in the context of the 60's when American flags were burned to protest the war in Vietnam. No flags have been burned this week, but there's a growing divide between those who are displaying the flag of their heritage and those who believe that you owe allegiance to the flag of the nation in which you live.
It is cloth and thread, but it instantly symbolizes a country -- the flag. And as we've seen this week, it's not always red white and blue.
"Because I'm Mexican," said a protester. "It's to show my Mexican pride."
That's the freedom guaranteed in America, but it's infuriating to more than a few people.
Korean War Veteran Alfredo Rodriguez noted, "They got a lot of Mexican flags out there and it's upsetting to the Mexican American people. At least, it is to me."
At a southeast Houston coffee shop, two friends at the same table have far different opinions on the protests and on what flags are flying.
Joshua Perez said, "They also have to realize where they're at and not press their culture on us as much."
"Why get so upset over a symbol? People are more important than those flags," responded Joseph James.
Symbols though can be powerful things. Kronberg Flags sells the banners of every nation. Each one is treated with respect, and that may be answer.
Owner Ron Kronberg said, "At Iwo Jima, the battle wasn't over until that flag was up and it's a very emotional part of people's history, regardless of what country they're in."
Now the flags are also symbolic of the debate on immigration.
(Copyright © 2006, KTRK-TV)
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