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CBP denies permissions to Mexico in 62 year parade tradition with Eagle Pass

A traditional “banda de guerra” from Miguel Hidalgo Primary School in Piedras Negras, Coahuila.
Courtesy Photo
Eagle Pass Chamber of Commerce
A traditional “banda de guerra” from Miguel Hidalgo Primary School in Piedras Negras, Coahuila poses for a photo at the International Friendship Festival Parade in Eagle Pass, Texas in 2023. The Mexican bands and floats will not be seen this year, as CBP denied permissions to Mexican nationals who would usually participate in the decades-long tradition.

The 62nd annual International Friendship Festival Parade in Eagle Pass on Saturday would have normally featured floats and school marching bands from Piedras Negras, but this year Customs and Border Protection (CBP) denied permission to some from south of the border to participate.

Those denied permission this year include some officials and organizers without U.S. crossing cards and, as a result, all of the Mexican primary schools who would usually participate with “Bandas De Guerra”—the traditional military-style marching bands seen at school and civic ceremonies throughout Mexico.

Mike Garcia, director of the Eagle Pass Chamber of Commerce, said it's a break in tradition for a binational community and a step further in a rapidly changing approach to border control by U.S. agencies.

“Back in the mid 70s and earlier, they would actually start the parade in Eagle Pass, go across Bridge 1 into Mexico, circle the plaza, and then come back out again to Eagle Pass,” said Garcia. “So it was actually on both sides of the border, and you had groups from both sides. We're talking about Drum and Bugle Corps, flags, and all the different things. It was a big deal.”

Local officials have not been able to clarify the reason for the denial from CBP, and the agency did not immediately respond to TPR’s request for comment.

Garcia said the change may have something to do with the current litigation over SB4, the Texas law that would allow local law enforcement to ask people about their immigration status and Texas judges to deport a person in lieu of criminal proceedings.

“CBP has been kind of tight about stuff lately with this SB4 thing coming up, I think is the problem,” said Garcia. “I think they're afraid it's going to get approved while they're here. Somebody's going to, you know, ask them for papers. They don't have any papers, really, it's just a kind of an informal letter. The letter gets approval.”

Eagle Pass resident Jessie Fuentes, who is participating in the parade to represent his Rio Grande kayak tour business, is currently in litigation with Texas over border barriers in the river.

He said that the mood of the festival is very different from previous years due to the missing presence of Mexico.

”They're doing it to destroy our culture, our traditions, our you know, our history,” said Fuentes. “It's a local history, but it's a valued history. It's like you have a party and you don't invite your neighbors, you know. It's sad, it's sad. And I'm saddened by all this because it's not within our hands.”

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Pablo De La Rosa is a freelance journalist reporting statewide with Texas Public Radio and nationally with NPR from the Texas-Mexico border in the Rio Grande Valley, from where he originates. He’s the host of the daily Spanish-language newscast TPR Noticias Al Día.