Arizona Veterans group says no to Cinco de Mayo
World War II veteran Harry Robert Warren posted the Colors in Arizona’s largest American Legion Post, then walked to the back of the room unprepared for the coming shock.
It was something that his lone, dissenting vote could not stop.
“I was kind of horrified that they would do something like that,” the 86-year-old former Army corporal said after 25 fellow Legion members voted to ban celebrations of Cinco de Mayo at the veterans’ organization in Apache Junction. The post has celebrated it regularly over the years.
A Battle of the Bulge survivor and member of Post 27’s honor guard, Warren said he believes the recent vote was a “backlash” to protests by Latino groups against Arizona’s stringent immigration law, which goes into effect on July 29.
“It happened so quickly,” Warren said. “I don’t think anyone was expecting it.”
To Warren, the vote was one more example of how Arizona’s nationally debated law can divide friends in the most unexpected settings.
Senate Bill 1070, signed into law in April, makes it a state crime to be in the country illegally. It states that an officer engaged in a lawful stop, detention or arrest shall, when practicable, ask about a person’s legal status when reasonable suspicion exists that the person is in the U.S. illegally.
Post Commander Felix Gonzalez said he, too, was stunned when the Post’s sergeant-at-arms urged members to approve his motion to bar future Post observances of the regional Mexican observance, which has been popularized in America.
The veteran who proposed the resolution could not be reached for comment.
“It caught me by total surprise,” Gonzalez said. “My jaw dropped. ‘What is this guy thinking of?’ I said.”
Gonzalez, the son of a Mexican-American father and mother with Spanish roots, said he was powerless to block or postpone a vote, despite his position as the Post’s top administrative official.
“I cannot stop a member from making a motion,” Gonzalez said. “He got a second and I had to call for a vote. It blindsided me the way it was put on the floor.”
“I would hope that it doesn’t reflect the opinions of the overall membership of approximately 2,500. I’ve been commander one year, and if it were really that way I would not be commander.”
Granted, Cinco de Mayo is a minor holiday at best in Mexico. It’s a military victory over the French, not Mexican Independence Day. But this vote is still sad. Why ban celebrating a regional holiday? It makes no sense, IMO.