People! It’s Cinco de Mayo Not Revenge of the 5th!

Honestly I LOVE Star Wars but I am getting a little tired of how geek culture is trying to put it in to all parts of life… That is not what I am here to rant about though… In these days of talking about racism I think it is time to start talking about something I find a bit offensive (I do not see it as racist or extremely offensive. I just see a lot of misinformed people and others not putting a little bit of effort to learn… People I know I am going to shock you here but Cinco de mayo is not about Mexican independence… It also not national taco and margarita day… (Although I do see the irony that it falls on a Taco Tuesday this year) The date May fifth is observed to commemorate the Mexican army’s unlikely victory over French forces at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862, under the leadership of General Ignacio Zaragoza Seguín… Like I said before, In the United States, Cinco de Mayo is sometimes mistaken to be Mexico’s Independence Day, the most important national holiday in Mexico which is celebrated on September 16.

Sadly for most Americans and Mexicans now in the USA, Cinco de Mayo calls to mind tequila shots, mariachi music, and special promotions at Mexican restaurants. The Fifth of May usually means that it’s time for a mid-week fiesta. ¡Orale! Not so fast. It’s worth knowing more about Cinco de Mayo. We should at least recall its true meaning and context. With Cinco de Mayo, the U.S. has gone straight to commercialization with little thought to its original significance. Cinco de Mayo is a seminal date in Mexican history. It is a holiday that deserves respect, and it can even be seen as a metaphor for the Hispanic experience in North America.

Contrary to popular belief, Cinco de Mayo is not Mexican Independence Day. Mexican Independence dates back to 1810, more than 50 years before the first Cinco de Mayo. Cinco de Mayo marks the date that’s several hundred Mexican soldiers defeated a much larger contingent of the French army in the Battle of Puebla. France had sent troops to Mexico after the country suspended payments on foreign debts. Although Mexico ultimately lost this war (and the French did not withdraw until several years later), the Battle of Puebla was a huge morale booster for Mexicans. It was a huge win, as the French army was then considered one of the best in the world. If only more Americans knew this! If there is anything more that Americans love, it’s the underdog sticking it to the man… It also might surprise people that Cinco de Mayo is more of a big deal in the USA. than Mexico. Though the date is a holiday in Mexico, it is celebrated mostly in Puebla, the site of the 1862 battle. In the USA, the observance of Cinco de Mayo is thought to have originated among Mexican laborers in the in the mid-1800s as a celebration of national pride. (But i know us Americans love an excuse for a good party!) A century later, Mexican-American activists in the 1960s claimed it as a symbol of ethnic identity. Then corporations discovered Cinco de Mayo as a way to market to Latino consumers, and the holiday went mainstream… Sad but true.

Think about it, Cinco de Mayo is an imported celebration that has now become as American as the Fourth of July. How amazing is that? In another sad turn of events, the American celebration of Cinco de Mayo often results in a parade of stereotypes. Last year alone: an ABC News anchor apologized for wearing a sombrero and adopting an accent on what she called “Cinco de Drinko”; and at a North Carolina college, some students took offense at Cinco de Mayo being observed with students donning sombreros and chocolate “mustaches.” The sad thing about all these incidents is that the parties involved probably had a good impulse to acknowledge Cinco de Mayo. Yet they showed poor judgment in how they did it. There’s not a damn thing wrong with celebrating Cinco de Mayo at a local bar or restaurant. just remember that there is more to it than Corona and tequila happy hours. Cinco de Mayo remains a meaningful date in Mexico and a point of pride for Mexican-Americans as well. Think about how it would strike us if we saw another country marking the Alamo, Custards last Stand or any battle of the Civil War with binge drinking and Uncle Sam hats. Wait, we do that on the 4th of july… Hum… Doesn’t speak well about…

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