Ay, Ay, Ay! Break out the piñata and get ready for BOGO tequila shots, because Cinco De Mayo is here. NOT!
The celebration of Cinco de Mayo has bothered me, increasingly, throughout the years. Of Mexican ancestry myself, we didn’t celebrate Cinco de Mayo. When I grew up, I was disgusted by what I witnessed every May 5th. As children, we can’t grasp the hows and whys but when I came to the age of understanding, I quickly realized that the Cinco de Mayo parties were nothing more than a blatant misidentification of my ancestors and my culture. I wanted nothing to do with them.
Most Americans don’t even understand what really happened on this day in 1862. If you ask most people, they mistake the day for Mexican Independence Day, which doesn’t happen until mid-September. For those that don’t know, Cinco de Mayo marks the Mexican army’s victory over France at the Battle of Puebla, during the Franco-Mexican War.
This victory was not a highly anticipated one. The United States has turned Cinco de Mayo into something that it isn’t. While Cinco de Mayo is a Mexican holiday, it is not widely celebrated in Mexico, mainly in the southern part of Puebla, where the war took place. For most Mexican people, the holiday is no big deal.
They are off of work because it is a national holiday; that’s it. You can imagine why Mexican people wonder, in amazement, the purpose of people in the United States celebrating a holiday that has nothing to do with their country. Cinco de Mayo isn’t about margaritas or how many tequila shots you can hold down. It ,definitely, wasn’t about frilly cactus decorations and sombreros. Two for one specials at that taco shop have no relevance.
Cinco de Mayo is a part of Mexican culture. It is important, but not as important as the emphasis it’s given in this country. Cinco de Mayo has been transformed into a misrepresentation of Mexican culture; and while taking selfies with fake mustaches and sombreros may seem harmless, it feels like a mockery.
“The corporate marketplace started pushing Cinco de Mayo as a day-long happy hour for downing cervezas and margaritas when it recognized the demographic growth of the Latino population in the 1980s. Corporations thought that advertising, sponsorship and promotion of Cinco de Mayo events would enable them to tap into that young consumer market. Beer and alcohol companies led the charge by spending millions on marketing the holiday. Corona Extra (the beer — no relation to the town) alone spent $91 million in 2013 on advertising around the holiday in both Spanish and English, calling itself “the original party beer of Cinco de Mayo.” This excerpt comes from a column by Professor of Chicano/a studies Jose M. Alamillo, of California State University and was printed in the Washington Post in May 2015.
Sure, let’s have a party. I don’t see anything wrong with having a drink and some tacos, but celebrate in a way that doesn’t offend the culture and heritage of the holiday’s origin. Simply lose the sombreros and fake mustaches and leave the fake accents behind. If we can all learn to celebrate, not stereotype, then raise your glass; otherwise, pack up the piñata and take yourself to the casa.
Ben Marmolejo-Najera is The Henderson News’ graphic designer. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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