|Dancers at the annual Cinco de Mayo Festival in Washington, D.C., photo by D. B. King|
I heard bagpipe music in the center of Provincetown for just a few minutes this afternoon. By the time I got dressed and out the door the piper was nowhere in sight, and I didn't know whether I should head east or west to try to catch up and find out what was going on. Does anybody know? Was this a funeral procession? Has the fellow who piped here many years ago returned? Was this meant as an ironic giggle celebrating Cinco de Mayo?
As a whole, we Americans are woefully ignorant of other cultures. We use the occasion of Cinco de Mayo as a reason to chug-a-lug a good bit of tequila or Corona, and we eat tacos and burritos, the same way we slug down green beer and eat corned beef and cabbage on Saint Patrick's Day. There's nothing wrong with that, but we're co-opting another country's holiday without really knowing anything about it. And most of us do have it wrong.
Here's a partial list of goofy (dare I say stupid?) questions posed to Google by well-meaning folks who wanted to celebrate this Mexican holiday, which actually gets more attention in the US than it does south of the border...
When is Cinco de Mayo?
Cinco means five in Spanish, de Mayo means of May, so, the 5th of May is Cinco de Mayo, and that’s when it’s celebrated.
Where is Cinco de Mayo?
Is that a trick question? Where are you? If, on May 5th, you are somewhere that recognizes the 365 days of the year, chances are, Cinco de Mayo is wherever you might be. If in doubt, stop in at any neighborhood bar and inquire.
What is Cinco de Mayo in Spanish?
Cinco de Mayo.
When is Cinco de Mayo celebrated in Mexico?
On Cinco de Mayo.
When is Cinco De Mayo in the US?
On Cinco de Mayo
When is Cinco de Mayo in Portland, Oregon?
Actually, Cinco de Mayo runs from May 4th through the 6th in Portland this year. Turns out this is the largest multicultural festival in the state of Oregon, held on its downtown waterfront, and it is definitely a bigger celebration than those typically held in Mexico.
Is Cinco de Mayo Racist?
No, but donning a sombrero, a poncho and a cheesy fake mustache while speaking in a mock-Spanish accent all day might be.
And, yes, people actually asked Google:
Is Cinco de Mayo about mayonnaise?
Seriously? No, really…
So what is Cinco de Mayo? Americans often think it is Mexico’s Independence Day, but it’s not. That’s Grito de Dolores, held on September 16th. And, no, it’s not the Day of the Dead. That’s Día de Muertos, the three-day holiday when Mexican families gather together in remembrance of deceased relatives and friends. It is usually held from October 31 to November 2.
Cinco de Mayo commemorates the day in 1862 when the tiny Mexican Army, against all odds, prevailed against the powerful French fighting forces in the Battle of Puebla, a small town that was expected to fall to France that day. But the seriously outnumbered Mexican troops surprisingly won the battle, galvanizing the Mexican forces.
When the French returned a year later and easily seized the town, Cinco de Mayo may have lost a bit of its luster. It is considered a minor holiday in Mexico, but now it is probably celebrated in America with more gusto than anywhere else in the world. Here’s how that happened…
During the 1960s, many Mexican-American civil rights activists began using the occasion as a source of pride. By 1989, a shrewd importer of Mexican beers launched a holiday ad campaign aimed at Latinos, but eventually ads in magazines, newspapers, and on TV garnered a much wider audience.
Fast-forward to the year 2013, when, despite the growing criticism of cultural stereotypes unleashed for a day every May 5th, this holiday had become part of the annual party circuit in the US. That year Cinco de Mayo beer sales reached $600 million, far outstripping Saint Patrick’s Day and the Super Bowl!
There’s nothing wrong with a party on someone else’s holiday, and the world should celebrate other cultures and their heroes, but let’s be respectful of others and their traditions. Let's spend a moment thinking about the soldiers that fought that day, on both sides, and lets think twice before doing, saying or wearing something that might advance racist stereotypes.
Now, how about a margarita? In fact, how about some carnitas tacos or pozole verde at the Central House? The Crown & Anchor’s restaurant has changed their menu a bit for the spring, reflecting a bit of the heritage of Chef De Cuisine Edwin Amaro. He offers an all-day menu Friday through Sunday featuring a couple of Mexican entrées amongst the traditional American dishes and seafood.
When the new menu came out I was so happy to see that Thursday is still Mexican Night. A salad served with your choice of seven Mexican entrées is just $18. I can’t wait for Thursday to roll around. I love Mexican food, and I’m nurturing a genuine, growing affection for the culture, too.
Post a Comment