The Phoenix Rises from El Cenizo: A Community Creates and Affirms a Latino/a Border Cultural Citizenship through its Language and Safe Haven Ordinances
32 Pages Posted: 8 Aug 2008
Date Written: August 6, 2008
When a small Texas border town of seven thousand, El Cenizo, adopted an ordinance mandating that all city functions, meetings and notices shall be conducted and posted in the predominant language of the community, which is Spanish, a media firestorm ensued. The Ku Klux Klan threatened to burn the town down and have its residents sent back to Mexico. Two nationally syndicated disc jockeys ("shock jocks") based in Virginia called El Cenizo City Hall while on the air, and publicly insulted a city commissioner telling her that anyone who will not or cannot speak English should "get on their burros and go back to Mexico." Critics have called El Cenizo "the next Quebec," "the canary in the mine," and have described the city's actions as "benign disassimilation." The Mayor and Commissioners of El Cenizo defended their actions by indicating that they did so at the request of the community. They note that as a result of the ordinance, they have seen an increase in the level of civic participation of their constituents, In addition, residents now feel safer in their community because of a "Safe Haven" ordinance. This ordinance, enacted on the same day the City passed the Predominant Language Ordinance, prohibits the City's elected officials and employees from disclosing, investigating or requesting information concerning a resident's immigration status. This article analyzes the constitutionality of both ordinances, contextualizes them as a form of Latino cultural citizenship and finally, offers some lessons to be learned from what happened in El Cenizo.
Keywords: Latino, border cultural citizenship, Spanish language, Texas, Le Cenizo, safe haven ordinances, predominant language, Ku Klux Klan, Predominant Language Ordinance, Latino culture, Safe Haven ordinance, Immigration Law, immigrants
JEL Classification: K19, K39
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation