Thursday, September 10, 2009

What is gained from acknowledging Mexico holiday & who will offend more?

I’m trying to figure out which Illinois Democratic gubernatorial hopeful is more likely to tick off the nativists of our society with their current attempts to get a significant portion of the Latino vote. Not that it matters. The kind of people who get offended by this would never vote for a Democrat to begin with.

I wonder because we’re coming up on that time of year when we get Hispanic Heritage Month – that effort to spend a special time of year acknowledging the cultural contributions of Latinos to this nation.

BOTH GOV. PAT Quinn and his significant challenger, state Comptroller Dan Hynes, are looking for favorable ways to use the month to reach out to voters.

I literally came home to an e-mail message from Hynes telling me that the candidate has plans to celebrate Mexico’s Independence Day. Actually, all it means is that he’s planning to participate in the parade scheduled for Saturday along Columbus Drive.

The actual Independence Day comes in mid-week, so we’re going to have to settle for a weekend appearance, although the Mexico ambassador to the United States may be in Chicago for a couple of days next week.

But Quinn is not going to be outshined in coming days. He wants the Latino vote just as badly as Hynes does.

SO IT IS with that in mind that the Thompson Center state government building will be included in the Chicago Skyline Tribute, in which buildings will use colored lights to give them the outer appearance of “los Tricolores.”

A whole sea of red, white and green across the downtown area. And for buildings that can’t light themselves up in such a manner, there will be Mexican flags flying over the streets of downtown Chicago come Wednesday.

I can already hear the rhetoric.

Why are we doing anything to celebrate a foreign holiday?

FOR THAT MATTER, why are our government officials bothering to dignify the proceedings with their presence?

Of course, considering that political people usually show up at every sort of ethnic-oriented event in Chicago to try to get votes, the shock would be if they thought they could ignore the Independence Day holiday of the ethnicity that comprises about one of every six Chicago residents.

But then again, this shouldn’t be a surprise. These are the Democratic candidates, which means they’re of the party that sometimes appears to be clueless about Latinos but not openly hostile to our existence.

The real surprise would be if any of the Republican candidates for governor were to bother to do anything to acknowledge the Independence Day celebrations that will take place in Chicago in coming days.

THUS FAR, I haven’t heard a peep out of any of the GOPers, nor do I expect to.

But that’s not to say that I think the Democratic candidates are doing anything all that spectacular by bothering to show up at the events.

Insofar as Hynes is concerned, I’d be more impressed if he were to show up at any of the Mexican Independence Day parades that will be held in the neighborhoods – either the big one along 26th Street in the Little Village community or the South Chicago neighborhood parade (the city’s oldest one) along Commercial Avenue.

Both are scheduled for Sunday and would give Hynes a more true picture of the Mexican-American population of Chicago than he will see at the Columbus Drive parade – which is kind of the parade equivalent of going to Pepe’s Tacos for Mexican food rather than a real restaurant.

AND AS FOR Quinn, I can’t help but wonder if someone needs to read up on their Mexican history. For the lighting up of downtown Chicago in red, white and green as a Mexican tribute sounds like it will come a day late (along with the proverbial dollar short).

It is true that Mexican Independence Day (the anniversary of the date in 1810 that the Spanish colonies declared themselves to be an independent nation, taking an Aztec-inspired “nombre” for their country) is Sept. 16.

But typically in Mexico, celebrations begin the night before, with the “Cry of Independence” (“el Grito”) taking place at Midnight when the days switch.

Are we really going to get a lit-up downtown Chicago the following night – literally as Mexican Independence celebrators are finally tuckered out and getting ready to sleep?

IN ALL, IT has the potential to be a letdown for those who want to celebrate the event.

But I will pass along to both Quinn and Hynes one piece of advice – the same one I traditionally give to every political person who makes a sojourn into a Latino “environment” to try to scavenge up some votes.

Don’t wear the sombrero. There have been cases where I have refused to vote for somebody because they let themselves get photographed in one of those oversized hats and their reaction made it clear how uncomfortable they were in the environment.

It will make you look silly to the point where you will appear to be doing nothing more than pandering to people to try to get votes.


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