(Editor's Note: On Friday afternoon, July 16, Mayor Arturo Garino notified the NI that the Fiestas Patrias celebration has been rescheduled from Sept. 11 to Sept. 18.)
In 2010, when the number of U.S. troops deployed to Afghanistan had surged to 100,000, organizers including the Nogales Santa Cruz County Chamber of Commerce, the Mexican Consulate and the City of Nogales callously decided that the community would celebrate Mexican Independence Day on 9/11. In the face of criticism and at the 11th hour, the plan was postponed until another day. Nice save.
But the lesson was not learned. We hear that the Fiestas Patrias event this year is planned at Ron Turley Park on Sept. 11 – the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the United States.
Why? Independence Day is celebrated in Mexico on Sept. 15 and 16, which fall on Wednesday and Thursday this year. Apparently, those mid-week dates are not conducive to the type of taxpayer-funded celebration organizers have in mind.
Councilwoman Esther Melendez-Lopez and Councilman Saulo Bonilla are among those organizers. Bonilla told the NI that he has already confirmed several musical acts. But no worries: He assured us that the event would include a moment of silence to honor those who died in the Sept. 11 attacks.
A moment of silence and then, “Party on, Wayne!” This would be disrespectful to the memory of the 2,312 U.S. military personnel who died defending our freedom in Afghanistan and the nearly 3,000 victims of the 9/11 attack, as well as the families left behind and all of those surviving first responders, many of whom suffered long-term health effects.
We certainly do not oppose the Fiestas Patrias and the NI has provided sponsorship in the past along with other non-government funders. But this time around, the council voted last week to make this a Category ‘A’ event, meaning the city (taxpayers) will foot the undetermined costs of the event.
It was revealed during the council meeting that just $42,000 was allocated in the recently approved budget for Fiscal Year 2021-22 for these types of functions, including Fourth of July, Christmas parade, Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day. The Fiestas Patrias was not part of that equation. Will city staff be confronted with having to take money from the Fourth of July festivities to spend on Mexico’s Independence Day party?
We should recall that the U.S. war in Afghanistan began on Oct. 7, 2001, with American airstrikes carried out against al-Qaida targets in retaliation for the Sept. 11 attacks. President Biden has declared the war will finally and officially end in August. We didn’t win. Al-Qaida is running rampant in that country. There is no cause for celebration … except in Nogales where we are planning to revel to the sounds of banda, rock and norteño music in celebration of another country’s Independence Day.
Mexico is in the DNA of the majority of those in Nogales. We love that country and celebrate its hard-won independence from Spain. But we should also recognize that we live in the United States. We need to honor this country, not make a mockery of the immense losses we sustained on Sept. 11, 2001. That’s what this planned celebration would do.
It’s an unpatriotic gesture and an affront to anyone and everyone who has served in the military defending this country, including all of those listed on the Memorial Wall at City Hall.
They deserve better from us. Let’s leave the party for another day.
(Coppola is publisher of the Nogales International. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.)