I used to be of the opinion that if you were Latino and wanted to protest about whatever issue, the last thing you should do is fly a Mexican flag. Or have placards written in Spanish. “It’s bad optics,” I would tell friends. “This isn’t the way to make your case or get sympathy for it if you’re flying the flag of a foreign country while protesting.”

But yet, we live in a country where a sizeable portion of people fly a Confederate “rebel” flag. It’s not the one actually used by the short-lived Confederate States of America, but there’s no mistaking what it is and what it stands for.

“Heritage, not hate!” is the standard response. Okay, you’re free to believe that, but it is, without any doubt, the flag of a foreign country. It’s the flag of eleven states that seceded (illegally) from the United States of America to set up their own sovereign nation, with a constitution that was identical to the U.S. version except for one thing: slavery could never be abolished.

Now, states like Arizona, California, New Mexico, Utah, Oregon and others were never part of the Confederacy, but they were federal territories of Mexico. Those lands were eventually lost and ceded to the United States, but its history is intertwined with that of Mexico and Spain. Mexico’s tenure is much closer in time than that of Spain, so why shouldn’t Latinos protesting the immigration policies of the U.S. and state bills meant to be vindictive about undocumented workers not fly the Mexican flag?

People who love flying the Confederate flag are never lectured to “consider the optics” because they don’t care at all (and they know exactly what they’re saying). Neither should Hispanic protestors care too terribly much about those optics, when they want to fly the Mexican flag as part of their demonstrations, as well as using the Spanish language, which is far deeper entrenched in the culture of the Southwest than English is.

It’s heritage, you understand, and certainly not hate.

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