I agree with most of my friend Gustavo Arellano’s roiling denunciation of Cinco de Mayo, mas o menos.
He says it’s ridiculous, only serves some limited purposes as far as educating about the evils of Imperialism, or the promotion of self-determination, y todo eso. Battle of Puebla my ear. Sure. OK, guey.
However, I think Gustavo misses one big fat Manuel’s El Tepeyac Hollenbeck Burrito-sized point: We’ve got to celebrate with the holidays we have. Not the holidays we want.
Of course, Cinco de Mayo’s obvious lack of historical importance, or its token educational moments we observe between gulps of margaritas are not exactly guacamole con gravitas.
We are in the land of Pochos. The USA! This is the place where traditions come to die — and eventually be reborn. Cinco de Mayo is our St. Patrick’s Day, when folks all playfully claim Irish ancestry. It’s also like a Thanksgiving, in the sense that probably many Americans imagine themselves as brave Pilgrims, stoically puritanical but oh so ready to share the bounty of the land with the Indians (from whose land the bounty came.)
It’s like a Fourth of July, in the sense that most Americans claim to be patriotic and proud citizens, but would probably be whooped at a civics test by any DREAMer.
We are blessed by the now national Taco Tuesday known as Cinco de Mayo not because it’s a hugely important event in Mexican history. If I only had a dollar for every condescending gringo who ever snidely informed me, “They don’t even celebrate Cinco de Mayo in Mexico. DID YOU KNOW THAT?” (A few condescending brownies have told me the same thing).
As I heard it, Cinco is only a holiday because Chicano college students in the late 60s wanted their colleges to have a holiday to honor their Mexican heritage and presence on campus, and Mexican Independence Day (September 16) was not always available or convenient to schools just getting started in the Fall. So, it’s not a big mystery, nor a conspiracy by alcohol companies, nor a plot to sell more sombreros and fake mustaches. But Cinco is a blessing for all those schemes.
Cinco de Mayo was originally a nod to multiculturalism in an era when that was truly respected, but now has morphed into a national fiesta and tortilla chip orgy that eventually operates just like all our other national fiestas: TO MAKE MONEY.
So, if you are a historian, or a political scientist put off by the lack of purity or meaning in Cinco de Mayo, let me tell you one thing: It’s Nacho Holiday. (Sorry about that, but Spanglish punnery is rapidly becoming a growth industry in 21st Century USA.)
Get used to more sombreros, more mustaches, more cerveza. I like it, it’s a brief moment of pop culture fun and a time for me to get that tortilla chip off my shoulder.
But remember that tomorrow is May 6. Time for the USA to go back to bitching about Mexicans!
Photo May 4, 2013, Bel Air Foods, Bel Air, CA by Comic Saenz