ARE WE DONE WITH CINCO DE MAYO YET?
There was a time when I would look forward to Cinco de Mayo because it was time to celebrate and affirm my Mexicanness. I knew all about the history of the event. How poorly equipped Mexican forces went up against a much better armed and supplied French interventionist army at the Battle of Puebla in 1862. In spite of being the underdog, the Mexican forces led by General Zaragoza prevailed. They soundly defeated the French. What’s often glossed over is that a few years later, the French won a the second battle of Puebla subjecting Mexico to French rule for a number of years. Oh well…
Cinco de Mayo was first celebrated in the United States in California in 1863, the year after the battle. At that time the battle had resonance among the largely Mexican population. But it wasn’t until the 1970s that Cinco de Mayo celebrations really took off. That’s when American beer and tequila companies saw an opportunity to enhance sales by making of Cinco de Mayo what they had made of St. Patrick’s Day–a chance to make money while people got drunk. Since then marketing firms have upped the importance of Cinco de Mayo. As a result you can count on annual city-wide celebrations featuring every Aztec dance troupe and mariachi band available, all gathered at watering holes sponsored by Coors, Budweiser and other beer companies.
So over the years, I must admit, my enthusiasm the Cinco has waned. Maybe it’s a little of “been there, done that,” or maybe its just that with the influx of so many Latinos from throughout the Americas, each country with its own remarkable history and memorable events, singling out one battle in one country seems kind of ..okay I won’t say pretentious or irrelevant but maybe just a tiny bit out of date? No one even remembers what the Battle of Puebla was all about!
The local news media, of course, don’t acknowledge this. They are obliged to explain each year what the Cinco celebrates and give their token blessing to the holiday, usually through a local feel-good story. And it certainly is a relief to get away from the daily news bombardment of violence, crime and nasty politics on the evening news. No, it’s just happy Mexicans getting drunk and partying while beer companies make a profit. Come on, what’s so wrong about that?
Well, I’ll say it here and will probably get a lot of negative response for being a party-pooper. But here goes: isn’t it time to give up our great love for the Cinco in favor of something more relevant and meaningful to our national Latino community?
What exactly are you getting at, vato? Replace Cinco de Mayo? That’s sacrilege! You’re not going Republican on us, are ya? And just what do you mean by “relevant and meaningful?” Watch where you’re stepping, hombre.
I’m thinking of the issues pressing on Latino communities now– immigration, the dreamers, health care, voter registration– there are SO many issues that we could celebrate but seldom do. I’m asking is there no other special day we can celebrate to uplift us with values and issues more relevant to our times?
Here’s an idea: what about replacing Cinco de Mayo with a National Immigrant’s Day?
Yes, an annual celebration of the history, struggles and contributions of America’s immigrants in making the United States a better nation? But doesn’t this ignore the struggles and contributions of Native Americans and African Americans? No, they deserve their own holiday. I’m talking immigrants–the people who, for one reason or another, had to come to America and make a go of it.
A National Immigrant’s Day would acknowledge the contributions of past generations of Irish, German, Jewish, and other immigrants and their descendants. And instead of casting current Latino immigrants as “murders and rapists,” it would be an opportunity to recast Latinos as who they really are: immigrants forced to leave their native homelands to come to a new country but eager to contribute their skills and knowledge to make their new homeland better.
I’m talking about taking the 5th of May and renaming it National Immigrant’s Day. The date is already book marked in our calendars, the celebrations are all line up. Aztec dancers and mariachis are standing by.
Think about it, a National Immigrant’s Day!
And yes, I’m sure the beer and tequila companies would be onboard for this one. Guaranteed!
Jesús Salvador Treviño