Mexicans Culturally Appropriate American Holiday Cinco De Mayo
Updated: May 3, 2020
Americans are known for many things, have been given many stereotypes, and are guilty of many cultural faux paus; but it’s not often that they become offended by other cultures or nationalities offenses towards them. For example, when the whole world wanted to wear blue jeans like the Americans, effect a James Dean or Elvis aesthetic, or express themselves lyrically through Hip Hop, Americans were by and large flattered.
More recently however, the world has been tasked with everyone collectively checking their respective privilege in a way that created a new wave of paradoxical narcissism and victim identification. To better understand this cultural shift I sought to explore the timely happenstance of Cinco DeMayo being celebrated in the United States in the next few days.
In order to delve deeper into this American Holiday I went to the cultural epicenter of the celebration - the local suburban TexMex bar. I spoke with the manager, Ricky, about how he went about preparing for this annual event.
“Well, I got lots of margarita mix, I’ve beefed up my staff and extolled the virtues of the short shorts for my staff. Oh...also, I got this new Himalayan Pink Salt for the glasses which is kinda cool cause Himalaya is a super interesting country. Everything else is just unboxed from previous years. We got these Corona versus Pacifico beer cardboard cutouts with boxing gloves and we do this thing where customers start a battle over which beer is better ….this drives up sales of both of course which makes lots of cash. We got this big sombrero hat with a hot sauce bowl on the top which is pretty cool for a special person to wear. ...Let’s see, we also have a killer deal on guacamole and we usually will have a mariachi band playing if we can book it early enough. Last year we got in trouble with code enforcement due to the noise, but that just made my customers unite in a tirade against the local PD when they showed up. It was nice to see team Corona and team Pacifico find some common ground.”
It was a lot to take in and the anthropologist in me was inspired to diary this first hand cultural experience laid out so completely. I wanted to see what else I could find about this Cinco De Mayo. I called up a former business associate of mine from Mexico City and interviewed him about this American holiday with a Spanish name.
At first he dismissively laughed and said that Cinco De Mayo was the Spanish term for the date May 5th, which confirmed my earlier suspicion about what I remembered from high school Spanish class. He told me that Mexicans also celebrate this day in smaller numbers despite it not being the date for the Mexican Independence Day. “Whoa, hold on a minute,” I said, that’s very dismissive of you to say that another culture's special day is wrong. I asked him to check his calendar privilege. I was also concerned when I heard that Mexicans were culturally appropriating our holiday and suggesting it somehow “wrong.” He apologized and said that in Mexico, they celebrate Independence day on September the 16th.
"Miguel Hidalgo, he said, made a powerful speech (referred to as the “Cry of Delores”) which helped to rally the support for independence from Spain and helped to propel a military victory and independence from Spain on September the 16th of 1810." In fact, the date, May 5th, just so happens to coincide with a famous battle in Mexico against the French Napoleonic forces at the battle of Puebla in 1862. That both of these dates are related to Mexican Independence was a striking revelation and it then became apparent why Mexicans were so eager to co-opt this time-honored American tradition.
To go further, Texas and other states along the border are themselves Latino states, and they always have been. That Texas has its own Latino heritage beyond its citizens with phenotypic or linguistic traits associated with Central America is not always realized, even within its own citizenry. The obvious aspect is that Texas used to be part of Mexico before it won its independence on April 21st of 1836 at the Battle of San Jacinto. Mexico had refused to grant statehood to Texas and left it to the despotic dictatorial reign of Mexican general Santa Anna; one of many factors was that there were too many non-catholic immigrants from the US and abroad moving in and beginning to outnumber the resident Mexicans. After Texas Independence, they remained an autonomous nation for nearly a decade until eventually being granted annexation by the United States. This is why the Texas flag is able to fly as high as the US flag (because it was a former nation). Culture is a derivative of everything, not just cuisine or language, therefore, Whites, Blacks, Asians, Latinos, etc. are all Tex-mex by virtue of the shared heritage of living in the state of Texas.
Perhaps in the spirit of friendship and brotherhood across borders, Americans should not take offense about reports of Mexicans celebrating Cinco De Mayo and look for this as an opportunity to consider that stealing someone else's culture is a cause for flattery and positive cultural fusion. The contrived aspect of taking offense at cultural appropriation creates artificial barriers to what has always generally been understood to be a positive melting pot that made America shine above the more homogenous aspects that some other countries more culturally defined by its borders. We ought also to view our Latino heritage as more than just a cuisine affection and rather a robust vision of independence and freedom that is strong in unification of personal freedom and enlightenment. This is not a high-minded revisionism of past grievances, connivance and chicanery that embody the dark past (and present) of minds of which all of humanity is capable of, but rather an extollation of virtues that also are at all times present in the hearts of mankind. Lift up that which is good, suppress that which is bad. And everyone agrees that Margaritas are bueno!