This year my daughter asked me, twice in two days, if we were celebrating “Cinco de Mayo.” I’m a little perplexed, as she is not very ‘up’ on the Mexicanada or Chicano culture-her one college class in Chicano Studies does count for a few points, though.
So I ask, Why, mija, is there somewhere you want to go, or to do, to celebrate?
“Yeah, let’s go to El Rey’s and have some tacos and beer!
Que-que? (She’s twenty-two so beer is on the brain). Mija, Cinco de Mayo is so much more than beer, tacos, and big sombreros. Maybe it’s the 1/4 Anglo in her that prompted the tacos and beer celebration or I could blame her youthfulness.
Do you know the significance of Cinco de Mayo? I ask.
“Uh, Mexican Independence Day?” She must have missed the section on the historic battle between the French and Mexican military forces in her Chicano Studies class.
Uh, no, it celebrates the Battle of Puebla, I say and proceed to give the following description:
The Battle of Puebla was important for two reasons. First, 4000 Mexicans defeated a much better-equipped French army of 8,000 men. Second, it was a successful resistance effort. The French defeat denied Napolean III the opportunity to resupply the Confederate rebels for another year during the Civil War allowing the Union to build up their forces.
“Uh….” she starts to say, but I’m on a roll…
…Cinco de Mayo is an opportunity to celebrate our culture and our experiences as Americans of Mexican descent. This isn’t celebrated in much of Mexico, except in the city of Puebla; it’s more of a US thing. We come from a people who fought for justice, although outnumbered and inexperienced, like modern-day David and Goliath. It’s the classic underdog story.
The battle became an example of the country’s resistance. And for Mexicans in California, it became a cause for celebration. The holiday didn’t begin to pick back up until the 1960s when Chicano activists revived it as a way to the Civil Rights movement.
After another few minutes, I end with “and that’s why it’s important, it’s a symbol of pride and hope. And those food and beverage companies have commercialized this day into Cinco Coronas day and Viva Bud day so I’m not about to contribute to their alcohol sales. I’m about to spew forth some more until I see the slight roll of her eyes upward.
“A simple no was all you had to say, mom, just a simple no”.
Que Viva Cinco de Mayo!