We hope you had a happy Cinco de Drinko – sorry – Mayo yesterday – an opportunity to celebrate Mexican culture knocking back tequila, margaritas and cerveza (Mexican beer) with party props like piñatas, oversized fake mustaches, sombreros, or serapes – in commemoration of the Mexican Independence Day. Right? WRONG! This perpetuates harmful stereotypes and may be hurtful to people’s sentiments, but don’t sweat it, you didn’t know!
While it is okay to celebrate no matter who you are – drink and dance, with copious amounts of guacamole and have a good time – it is important to refresh your knowledge of the holiday so non-Chicano people can be educated about the Mexican culture.
Cinco de Mayo (pronounced: [ˈsiŋko ðe ˈmaʝo]; Spanish for "Fifth of May") is a date observed to celebrate the Mexican Army's unlikely victory over French forces at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1866.
Here is a summary of the historical events from Independent and The Intercept:
In 1861 Mexico was suffering from financial ruin following years of internal strife and war as they were unable to repay the enormous loan to Europe without starving the country.
Getting into unsustainable debt is not something unique to Mexico; countries have done so over and over throughout history, particularly during wars. The U.S. borrowed more than we could ever repay from France and the Netherlands during the Revolutionary War, and the U.K. borrowed far beyond its means from the U.S. during World War I.
This was exploited by the French President Napoleon III, invaded Mexico to build an empire there with well-armed forces, forcing the Mexican government and its forces to retreat into northern Mexico. Confident of further victories, French forces focused their attention on the city Puebla de Los Angeles. Anticipating the attack, Mexican President Benito Juárez brought together a group of 2,000 men to fight back, many of whom were indigenous Mexicans or of mixed ancestry. When the French finally attacked, on May 5, 1862, the battle lasted from daybreak to early evening. The French ended up retreating after losing almost 500 soldiers. The Mexicans lost fewer than 100.
The Latino community has tried to raise awareness about the forgotten history – which remains extremely relevant in world politics. Today, it is not even a federal holiday in Mexico – although people in Puebla celebrate as that’s where the unlikely victory occurred. However, in the US, thanks to the big beer corporations, it has really taken off as an excuse to party, much like St. Patrick’s Day. Mexico does, however, celebrate September 16, which marks their independence from Spain, the date often confused with in the US.
Cinco de Mayo 2017 holds great significance with Donald Trump’s election. This day, last year, Mr. Trump tweeted a photo of him eating a taco bowl – not a traditional Mexican dish – captioned “I love Hispanics” – but the people are fearful of celebrating this year due to the anti-immigrant policies and promise to build a wall to keep Mexican people out.
So next year, when you break out the celebrations with parades, parties, Ranchera/Norteño/Grupero/Tejano/Mariachi music, remember to read up on some Mexican history or learn about immigrant rights and justice organizations (like the American Civil Liberties Union, Border Angels, and the League of United Latin American Citizens) while you sip your drink, support the real thing by getting authentic, traditional Mexican foods (extra points if you make it yourself. No, chipotle doesn’t count). And stand up at parties when someone does something ignorant – because, well, now you know.