[Recently by Dave Gorak: Dave Gorak Contemplates "Latino Clout" in Illinois ]
Who can forget the arrogance of former Mexican Foreign Minister Jorge "the whole enchilada" Castaneda when he said, "We are already giving instructions to our [U.S.] consulates that they begin propagating militant activities." [Houston Chronicle, November 23. 2002]
Castaneda meant that in addition to their normal duties, Mexican officials had the green light to stick their noses into local politics (a violation of Article 55 of the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations) and to work with grassroots "immigrant rights" groups to promote amnesty.
Other common tactics of Mexicans in positions of authority in the US included showing up at city council meetings with large numbers of illegal aliens to pressure spineless local officials into accepting the bogus and discredited matricula consular.
But worst of all, they publicly humiliated Mexican nationals living here who, shall we say, do not share Vicente Fox's goal of subverting our immigration laws and trashing our national sovereignty.
One such "traitor" is Esther Tapia Barber, who has lived in Indianapolis since 1997 after arriving legally from Mexico to marry retired police officer Bob Barber. From the beginning Esther was active in Indianapolis' Mexican community. She played a leading role in organizing the city's Mexican Independence Day Parade and Cinco de Mayo celebration.
But her standing in the community plunged when her husband decided in 2003 that he had had enough of illegal immigration and founded Americans for Legal Immigration (ALI). One of Barber's first acts was to threaten to sue the late Gov. O'Bannon if the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles accepted the matricula as a primary ID.
I first met the Barbers at the Midwest Immigration Summit held Nov. 1 in Indianapolis and cosponsored by ALI and FAIR. It was there I learned of the efforts to intimidate Esther and isolate her from the city's Mexican community.
According to Esther, a representative of Mexican Consul Sergio Aguilera Beteta (e-mail him) called the managers of the Crown Hill Cemetery, which was hosting the Nov. 2 Day of the Dead Festival, and "instructed" them to ask Esther to stay away from this event where she planned to sell her handmade paper flowers. The cemetery's management ignored Beteta's request because the festival was open to the public and being held in a community cemetery. Following the advice of FAIR's Midwest Field Director, Susan Tully (e-mail her), Esther attended the event accompanied by two friends.
During the event Beteta confronted Esther and, according to both eye-witnesses, said, "Aren't you ashamed to show your face at this celebration, when your husband has been slandering Mexico and the Mexican people?"
Beteta's behavior toward Esther, said Susan Talevska (e-mail her), "was rude and embarrassing. His tone of voice was strict, admonishing, and very critical of her. It was very inappropriate to do this at a social event."
(When you get right down to it, there really was no appropriate time or place to do this unless you believe, as does Beteta, that a representative of a foreign government has the right to enter an American city and badger residents living there legally.)
On November 3, Ricardo Gambetta (e-mail him), director of Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson's (e-mail him) "Latino Affairs Commission," continued the assault on the Barbers during his appearance at a local Hispanic radio station (WEDJ-FM). He suggested that the Barbers' "anti-immigrant" agenda was comparable to those of other "extremist" groups, including the American Nazis who had met in the city several weeks earlier.
Esther, who expects to become a U.S. citizen this year, said she has offered to resign from several Mexican cultural organizations. She told me "I feel the coldness at those meetings where people once were friendly." (She has written to Vicente Fox and the State Department to protest Beteta's conduct and is awaiting replies.)
Despite the ongoing war of words and two recent incidents in which her husband's car windows were shot out during the night, Esther is resolute in defending her husband's activism:
"They are accusing him of trying to destroy the bridges between the Mexican community and other residents of this city, and this is not true. I respect his decision to defend his country."
The tension between Beteta and Gambetta and the Barbers is not the result of poor communication. On the contrary, Beteta, along with hundreds of other city officials, including Mayor Peterson and law enforcement personnel, was invited to attend our immigration summit. None of the "decision makers" Bob hoped would attend bothered to show their faces. In fact, Esther says Beteta told her the day before that he didn't want to "give credibility to people who have an anti-immigrant agenda."
So Beteta has twice missed opportunities to make his views heard to the widest possible audience: once at the immigration summit and a second time by refusing to return my phone calls or answer my e-mail.
A final note: Although nobody at our meeting wore white sheets and hoods, the Indianapolis Star saw fit Nov. 9 to run a lengthy letter from Manuel Gonzalez, president of what appears to be a defunct Indiana Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, in which he referred to our movement as "a new brand of KKK whose purpose is to create fear and separation in a peaceful community."
I wonder if Gonzalez, had he attended our meeting, would have had the cojones to say that to the faces of three of our speakers: Peter Gadiel, whose son died in the World Trade Center; Rep. John Hostettler (R-IN), chairman of the House Subcommittee on Immigration; and Brian Perryman, who retired last year as the INS' Chicago district director.