Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Why it's OK to wave the U.S. and Mexican flag at the Olympics

By Jesús Chairez, Special to CNN
updated 8:39 AM EDT, Wed August 15, 2012
Right after winning second place in the 1,500-meter final at the London Olympics, Leo Manzano waved just the U.S. flag.
Right after winning second place in the 1,500-meter final at the London Olympics, Leo Manzano waved just the U.S. flag.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Jesús Chairez: Leo Manzano has a right to wave two flags in his victory lap at the Olympics
  • Chairez: Manzano has dual citizenship for the U.S. and Mexico
  • He says Manzano wanted the world to know that he didn't forget his heritage
  • Chairez: There is no doubt that Manzano loves America, his adopted country

Editor's note: Jesús Chairez, a Latino activist and freelance writer, is a former producer and host of the first GLBT Latino radio show, "Sin Fronteras" ("Without Borders") on KNON 89.3 FM. He has written for the Dallas Morning News, Dallas Voice and the Los Angeles Times. Follow him on Facebook.com/jesuschairez or Twitter: @JesusChairez

Dallas, Texas (CNN) -- When Leo Manzano won second place in the 1,500-meters final at the Olympics, he celebrated his well-deserved victory by waving two flags, that of the United States and Mexico. He has every right to do so: After all, he has dual citizenship for both countries.

Some observers disagree with Manzano's action. On CNN.com, Ruben Navarrette voiced his concerns that Manzano was showing disloyalty to the United States even while he's wearing the USA jersey.

Opinion: U.S. Olympic athlete, Mexican flag?

Judging by the volume of comments in response to Navarrette's opinion, one would think that Manzano had committed treason. One reader wrote, "He is pathetic. ... Go back to Mexico. You're either American OR NOT!!" OK, calm down. Let's not get too worked up here.

Jesús Chairez
Jesús Chairez

Navarrette was right when he said that "it's all about context." Like him, I personally don't like Mexican-Americans or undocumented Mexicans waving Mexican flags protesting in the United States. But keep in mind, we live in America: a country where one can voice an opinion, however different it might be. We live in a land that has freedom of speech.

But I believe Navarrette missed the larger point. Manzano is not Mexican-American but was born a Mexican and became an American. There is a reason one can have dual citizenship; it means that one can have an allegiance for two countries. There is no conflict of interest. If governments can approve of dual citizenship, why can't individuals embrace it?

Navarrette asked: "Where were the Italian-American athletes waving the Italian flag, or the Irish-Americans waving the Irish flag?" Maybe we don't have that because Italian and Irish families emigrated to the United States much earlier and their ties may not be as strong to their motherland. Also, they are too far away from Europe. However, Mexico is so close to the United States that Manzano, or any other Mexican or Mexican-American, can just drive their car across the border. Those people with Italian or Irish lineage can't just drive home: There's too much water along the way, much more water than the Rio Grande.

I found it interesting that Navarrette would say that most Mexican-Americans he knows "would need a whole team of therapists to sort out their views on culture, national identity, ethnic pride and their relationship with Mother Mexico." I don't see that, though I think some of my fellow Mexican-Americans need therapists for other reasons.

Navarrette also thinks that Mexican-Americans are "the orphans of the Southwest -- too Mexican for the Americans, too American for the Mexicans." I have heard this before. Maybe it's just me, but I wouldn't need to see a therapist to accept being a second-generation Mexican-American and embrace the culture of my grandparents. I am bilingual, bicultural and have two addresses: Dallas, Texas, and Mexico City. I have affinity for both the United States and Mexico, and that's perfectly fine.

In this increasingly global world we live in, don't we have an appreciation for people who do not forget where they came from? When I am in Mexico City, I certainly never forget that I am also an American. On the Fourth of July, for example, I once had a party that included American flags, hot dogs and hamburgers in order to educate my Mexican friends about American culture. No one made a big deal about it.

When I posted Navarrette's commentary about Manzano on my Facebook page, the reactions were not in Navarrette's favor. My friends, mostly Mexican-Americans and Mexicans, looked at Manzano's victory lap in a positive light.

They know that Manzano was representing the United States and never doubted his devotion to the country that took him and his family in during hours of need. It's just that, in a moment of pride, Manzano wanted the world to know that he didn't forget his heritage. As one friend aptly put it, "Identity, like borders, is porous and negotiable."

I like this statement because even though I was born and raised in Dallas, I have no problem crossing borders, loving both Dallas and Mexico City. If I am ever recognized in Mexico for any of my accomplishments, I will not hesitate to wear my U.S. flag in honor of my country.

Sure, the Olympics are a different story. The whole world is watching. While Olympic athletes should always rally behind their team, it does not mean they have to subsume their individuality. We should admire individuals for their hard work and respect their decisions in how they wish to be recognized. Manzano wanted to thank the United States and also acknowledge Mexico, the land of his forefathers.

As I see the image of Manzano running with two flags and embracing his dual citizenship, I sense no insolence. He didn't take off his USA jersey; the Mexican flag is not prominently hanging over his head, it's only dangling as some sort of secondary thought. It is clear he loves his adopted country.

Viva to Manzano for being proud of who he is: someone who is American, but also has a part of Mexico in him.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Jesús Chairez.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 9:29 AM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Cornell Belcher says the story of the "tea party wave" in 2010 was bogus; it was an election determined by ebbing Democratic turnout
updated 4:12 PM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Les Abend says pilots want protocols, preparation and checklists for all contingencies; at the moment, controlling a deadly disease is out of their comfort zone
updated 11:36 PM EDT, Sun October 19, 2014
David Weinberger says an online controversy that snowballed from a misogynist attack by gamers into a culture war is a preview of the way news is handled in a world of hashtag-fueled scandal
updated 8:23 AM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Julian Zelizer says Paul Krugman makes some good points in his defense of President Obama but is premature in calling him one of the most successful presidents.
updated 10:21 PM EDT, Sun October 19, 2014
Conservatives can't bash and slash government and then suddenly act surprised if government isn't there when we need it, writes Sally Kohn
updated 8:28 AM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
ISIS is looking to take over a good chunk of the Middle East -- if not the entire Muslim world, write Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider.
updated 9:00 AM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
The world's response to Ebola is its own sort of tragedy, writes John Sutter
updated 4:33 PM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
Hidden away in Russian orphanages are thousands of children with disabilities who aren't orphans, whose harmful treatment has long been hidden from public view, writes Andrea Mazzarino
updated 1:22 PM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
When you hear "trick or treat" this year, think "nudge," writes John Bare
updated 12:42 AM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
The more than 200 kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls have become pawns in a larger drama, writes Richard Joseph.
updated 9:45 AM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
Peggy Drexler said Amal Alamuddin was accused of buying into the patriarchy when she changed her name to Clooney. But that was her choice.
updated 4:43 PM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
Ford Vox says the CDC's Thomas Frieden is a good man with a stellar resume who has shown he lacks the unique talents and vision needed to confront the Ebola crisis
updated 4:58 AM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
How can such a numerically small force as ISIS take control of vast swathes of Syria and Iraq?
updated 9:42 AM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
How big a threat do foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq pose to the West? It's a question that has been much on the mind of policymakers and commentators.
updated 8:21 AM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
More than a quarter-million American women served honorably in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Now they are home, we have an obligation to help them transition back to civilian life.
updated 4:27 PM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
Paul Begala says Rick Scott's deeply weird refusal to begin a debate because rival Charlie Crist had a fan under his podium spells disaster for the Florida governor--delighting Crist
updated 12:07 AM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
The longer we wait to engage on Ebola, the more limited our options will become, says Marco Rubio.
updated 7:53 AM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Democratic candidates who run from President Obama in red states where he is unpopular are making a big mistake, says Donna Brazile
updated 12:29 AM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
At some 7 billion people, the world can sometimes seem like a crowded place. But if the latest estimates are to be believed, then in less than a century it is going to feel even more so -- about 50% more crowded, says Evan Fraser
updated 12:53 PM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Paul Callan says the Ebola situation is pointing up the need for better leadership
updated 6:45 PM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Nurses are the unsung heroes of the Ebola outbreak. Yet, there are troubling signs we're failing them, says John Sutter
updated 1:00 PM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Dean Obeidallah says it's a mistake to give up a business name you've invested energy in, just because of a new terrorist group
updated 7:01 PM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Fear of Ebola is contagious, writes Mel Robbins; but it's time to put the disease in perspective
updated 1:44 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Oliver Kershaw says that if Big Tobacco is given monopoly of e-cigarette products, public health will suffer.
updated 9:35 AM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
Stop thinking your job will make you happy.
updated 10:08 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says it's time to deal with another scandal involving the Secret Service — one that leads directly into the White House.
updated 7:25 AM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Americans who choose to fight for militant groups or support them are young and likely to be active in jihadist social media, says Peter Bergen
updated 9:03 AM EDT, Mon October 13, 2014
Stephanie Coontz says 11 years ago only one state allowed same sex marriage. Soon, some 60% of Americans will live where gays can marry. How did attitudes change so quickly?
updated 4:04 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Legalizing assisted suicide seems acceptable when focusing on individuals. But such laws would put many at risk of immense harm, writes Marilyn Golden.
updated 9:07 AM EDT, Mon October 13, 2014
Julian Zelizer says the issues are huge, but both parties are wrestling with problems that alienate voters
updated 6:50 PM EDT, Mon October 13, 2014
Mel Robbins says the town's school chief was right to cancel the season, but that's just the beginning of what needs to be done
updated 11:43 AM EDT, Sat October 11, 2014
He didn't discover that the world was round, David Perry writes. So what did he do?
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT