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9/17/02

American flag ignites controversy

By Jessica Zisko -- Editor in Chief
Daily Aztec (SDSU)

The display of an American flag evoked controversy yesterday after students say a Mexican flag was removed from the same on-campus site.

In the morning, construction workers renovating the Chemistry and Geology Building hung a Mexican flag on the structure to celebrate Mexican Independence Day. It was placed above an American flag, which had been hanging on the building since early last week.

After receiving phone calls inquiring about the Mexican flag, Business Enterprises -- which handles all university signage -- contacted the facilities department and asked them to have the contractor remove both flags, said Joe Vasquez, associate vice president of the department.

However, according to MEChA chairperson Naddia Cherre, the Mexican flag was removed but the American flag remained.

In response, MEChA members rallied in front of the building and chanted "Viva Mexico" with the Mexican workers, which, according to Cherre, make up 90 percent of the construction crew.

"We went for them," Cherre said. "Most of them are Mexican and we just wanted to show them some support."

The contractor, CE Wylie Construction, did not return calls yesterday, but Vasquez said contractors are only allowed to display signs on construction sites bearing the name of the company. All flags and banners are restricted.

Cherre contacted Vasquez about the discrepancy. She said he assured her that it was against the rules to hang anything from the structure and did not know why the American flag was still hanging.

"I understand if there is a rule about no flags," Cherre said. "But, then, why was the American flag still up?"

By the end of the day, both flags were removed.

Vasquez said his office was never notified about the American flag, which is why the contractor was not told to remove it earlier.

"People looked the other way with the American flag," Vasquez said.

He said the contractor will not be penalized for displaying either flag.

Lauren Cooper, project manager for the building renovation, said an interim supervisor has been on duty at the construction site since Sept. 6 while the main supervisor is on vacation.

Vasquez said this is why the infraction occurred.

"The supervisor was not there," he said. "It wouldn't have happened if he was."

Both Cooper and Vasquez also said they did not notice the American flag in the past week.

Mexican Independence Day commemorates Mexico's call for independence from Spanish rule nearly 200 years ago. This weekend also marked the beginning of Hispanic Heritage Month, which honors the nation's 35 million Hispanics.