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The Flag and Related Matters

     Emilio Zertuche described the passion their flag inspires in Mexicans. The reaction to national symbols is a significant subject. Most people are indifferent to the flags or national anthems of other peoples, but Tim Brown shows his unusual empathy for Mexico. He writes:
     "To me, although it isn't mine, the Mexican flag is magnificent. A couple of years ago they began flying one that seems the size of a football field from a flag staff in the Chamizal in Ciudad Juarez opposite El Paso. It caused quite a stir on the US side, with some claiming it was, in effect, excessively xenophobic. I came out in favor of it because Mexicans have the right to fly it as they will and I found it very attractive. I even recommended that we have a US flag the same size made up and fly it to emphasize the border aspects of life there [good for tourism and trade], but there were no takers.
     I have gone twice to the very impressive Mexico City daily Zocalo ceremony of raising and lowering one of these giant flags by the ceremonial guards of the Palacio Nacional, and I find it very impressive and stirring. But what is even more impressive is the civic spirit shown by the Mexicans who are present.
     I did, however, oppose another use of the Mexican flag. A major El Paso bank, States National as I recall, had a tradition of lighting the windows of its 24 story central El Paso office building to look like the US flag. It was beautiful, especially when driving in to the city from the east. Then a Mexican group bought the bank and replaced the US flag-lights with Mexico-flag lights, which I criticized, not because it was unattractive but because it was in effect the "flying" of a gigantic Mexican flag in downtown El Paso, Texas.

     My comment: I feel the big Mexican flag was indeed defiant. My favorite flag is the Brazilian one, which could never be described as hostile. It shows the night sky, featuring the Southern Cross as it was when the republic was proclaimed in 1889. Across it are the words "Order and progress", which should be completed with the words "and above all love," that being the motto of the Positivists (followers of Auguste Comte), who established the republic. Years ago I attended a service at the Positivist Church in Rio and met a lot of the old men who had founded the republic. They gave me their publications, which are now in the Hilton collection in Trinity University library, San Antonio, Texas.
     National anthems, which accompany the flag are a worse problem. Many are not only defiant, but nasty and bellicose. Here again the Brazilian national anthem is an exception. It is a convoluted romantic piece boasting about the charm of Brazil and claiming that there is no love like Brazilian love.
     It has odd memories for me. In 1950 we held a Brazilian conference at which the guest of honor was Ambassador Nabuco. His plane was to land at Moffett Field, a naval base near Stanford. I persuaded the heads of the military district to play the musically complicated Brazilian anthem when Nabuco landed. As the plane arrived near the receiving stand, the band struck up the Brazilian anthem and played it magnificently. The plane door opened and out came a pile of the Ambassadorīs luggage. He never traveled light. The band stopped in mid-breath. The Ambassador's group arrived next in the accompanying plane, but no tooting. Very prosaic.
     The most bloody national anthem is La Marseillaise, proclaiming bloody death to the tyrants. Corsica has been ravaged by bloody bombings by independentists. Angry French patriots on the island sing it very lustily. It would be more appropriate for the independentists, who vow the make the blood of the French tyrants flow. This shows that a national anthem is mostly music, with the words primarily just words.

Ronald Hilton - 11/30/99