Meaning of Cinco de Mayo lost
May 4, 2011
Happy Cinco de Mayo. I am your Cinco de Mayo myth-buster.
Contrary to popular belief, Cinco de Mayo is not a Mexican holiday. It’s a Mexican-American holiday, and prior to the recent commercialization of Cinco de Mayo by cerveza and taco peddlers, Cinco de Mayo is not a holiday that was celebrated only in Mexico.
Cinco de Mayo has been celebrated in Goliad, Texas, since before Texas was a state. Why? Because the Mexican-American general, Ignacio Zaragoza, who led a small Mexican army to defeat larger French troops in Puebla, Mexico, in 1862, was a native of Goliad, Texas.
According to my former multicultural history instructor, Geni Flores, this event benefited the U.S. because Napoleon planned to take Mexico and then help the southern U.S. defeat the northern U.S. and ultimately take over the U.S. for France.”
I think the words of talk show host, Jay Leno, ring true. Leno says, “Cinco de Mayo is to Hispanics what St. Patrick’s Day is to Irish.” Do we tell Irish to swim back across the ocean and take their Irish holiday with them?
Every year on Cinco de Mayo, I twist my nose at companies that offer half off tacos and $1 margaritas, not in honor of this Mexican-American holiday, but in the name of commercialism.
I also twist my nose at Hispanics and others who likewise celebrate Cinco de Mayo without having a clue why.
Every year that I give a lesson in Cinco de Mayo 101, I argue that this is a part of American history. It’s also a time to recognize the contributions and sacrifices Hispanics, now the largest U.S. minority, have made.
So much of our American history is written in black and white. Many Hispanics also suffered lynchings in the early 1900s due to racism, just like African Americans, and were subject to infamous “Sun Down” laws. Like Native Americans, many Hispanics also unjustly lost their land after the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo due to errors in translations.
Viva Cinco de Mayo.