By Michelle Barron, CCPRD Manager of Substance Use Prevention
Cinco De Mayo (May 5th) means eating tacos, drinking margaritas, and wearing sombreros for many Americans. For me, however, a Mexican American Latinx female, this holiday means pain, suffering, the killing of my people, and the appropriation of my culture. A common misconception is that Cinco De Mayo is Mexico’s Independence Day (actually on September 16th). In fact, a poll revealed that only 22 percent of Americans know the history of Cinco de Mayo.
In 1862, Napoleon III wanted to take over Mexico City after France lost land in the Louisiana Purchase. On May 5th, 1862, he sent a fleet to Veracruz, where they were defeated by Mexican troops led by Ignacio Zaragoza, known as the first battle of Puebla. Later, Mexico lost another battle that ended in the French taking over parts of Mexico. In Mexico, Cinco de Mayo is not considered a holiday, but there is a small celebration in Puebla where they reenact the first battle and have other festive celebrations. The Mexican people who celebrate Cinco De Mayo celebrate it to honor the courage, bravery, and loyalty the small Mexican army had that day to defeat the French army, even while being outnumbered.
In the United States, Cinco De Mayo represents overconsuming alcohol, eating tacos, and carrying out negative stereotypes. This is the only time where my people are seen, and even then, it's not in a positive light, but when the day ends, my people aren’t visible anymore. Dreamers and immigrants are fighting to stay in this country, and children are kept in cages separate from their parents, all while facing discrimination and defying stereotypes. Some people love Taco Tuesday, Margaritas, tequila, and our culture but say we are “stealing their jobs” or that we should “go back to our country.”
This Cinco De Mayo, I encourage you to learn more about Mexican history and especially consider Mexico has suffered over the years from people trying and succeeding in taking their land. I also encourage you all to advocate for Dreamers, fair farming working conditions, and immigrant rights. Many children in cages are now separated from their families and going “missing.” They aren’t getting basic human needs while in those cages. They need you to speak up for them! Let’s be part of the change this Cinco de Mayo.
For more information on current conditions and resources visit:
History.com Editors. “Cinco De Mayo.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 23 Oct. 2009, www.history.com/topics/holidays/cinco-de-mayo.
Garcia-Navarro, Lulu. “The Real History Of Cinco De Mayo.” NPR, NPR, 5 May 2019, www.npr.org/2019/05/05/720376183/the-real-history-of-cinco-de-mayo.
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