Happy Cinco de Mayo – It’s Not What You Think It Is

By Susan Kuebler

Time to fire up the blender and make a batch of margaritas!  Get out your Old El Paso taco seasoning and shells.  It’s Cinco de Mayo!  Yay!  Let’s celebrate!

But what are we celebrating?  If you asked the average “norteamericano” (that’s someone who doesn’t live south of the Rio Grande by the way) 8 out of 10 people would probably tell you we’re celebrating Mexican Independence Day.  To use one of Donald Trump’s best words “Wrong.”   That day is September 16th FYI.

Then if you were to ask anyone who knows more about history than Donald Trump, “Mexico’s independence from which country?”, I’m guessing most would say Spain.  Sorry, but you’re wrong again.  It was France.

But why bother about facts.  Americans love a good excuse to party and get drunk.  Just look at what we’ve done to St. Patrick’s Day.  Who cares if you’re Irish or not?  Years ago on March 17th I was in the checkout line at a cafeteria when the man in front of me asked the cashier (who was black) if she was celebrating St. Patrick’s Day.  Her response was classic “Do I look like a G-D leprechaun?”

It is wonderful that North Americans take a day to celebrate Mexican history and heritage.  It would be nice, however, if they knew what they were celebrating.  Cinco de Mayo recognizes and honors the major victory won by the Mexican Army on that date in 1862 against – you guessed it, the French.  It is known there as the Battle of Puebla Day and although it is not an officially recognized holiday in Mexico, the battle is still remembered and celebrated in that country.

Last year, while running for president and trying to gain Hispanic support, Donald Trump posted his famous (infamous?) tweet of him eating a taco bowl at a restaurant in Trump Towers.  This year he will be spending it golfing in New Jersey because he doesn’t need those votes anymore.

It would also be wonderful if, instead of using it as an excuse to drink margaritas, people would take the time to recognize the contributions made by Mexicans and other people of Hispanic origin to our country.  In 2016, for the first time in our history, we had not one, but two viable candidates of Hispanic parents running for the office of President of the United States.  Sadly, voters decided to elect a man who promised to build a wall between Mexico and our country instead.

Celebrating Cinco de Mayo should be about building bridges between two cultures, not about building a wall between two countries.

It is also an excellent opportunity to educate yourself about the history of our neighbor to the south.  The people of Mexico are a proud people with a rich and varied history and culture.  They are no more rapists and “bad hombres” than your average native-born U.S. citizens.  They fought and won their independence from a foreign European power just as we did against the British.

So enjoy your margaritas, your cervesas, and your tacos today.  Build a bridge with a Mexican neighbor, not a wall.  Honor and respect their heritage by knowing what you are celebrating.  You’ll be a better person for it.


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