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Life Arts    H4'ed 4/7/18

-Salud!: Here's to Cinco de Mayo

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It'll be Cinco de Mayo soon enough, and like always, Americans will get together to celebrate. They will eat Mexican food and drink anything with tequila in it. They will wear sombreros, say the few words they know in Spanish, and talk about how they're commemorating Mexican Independence Day. As a Mexican growing up on the Mexican-American border, I watched a few of these celebrations. Now living in New York, I see them even more. As Cinco de Mayo approaches, the decorations and discounts appear everywhere. The restaurant my friend works in even asked her to wear a "Mexican dress." And, of course, there are the Facebook posts of Americans saying, "Happy Mexican Independence Day!" Followed by party and drinking related emojis.

Let's get something straight: September 16th is Mexican Independence Day. Americans have been celebrating the wrong day. But that's okay.

Quick history lesson: Cinco de Mayo, known as the day of the Battle of Puebla, celebrates the successful Mexican victory against a French invasion in 1862. The Mexican army rose to the occasion and won against all odds. This victory was worth a holiday. Then, the French returned a year later and actually did conquer us until Benito Juarez ejected them in 1867. These days, Cinco de Mayo gets some mention in Mexico, but never the type of wild party that Americans throw, which is funny considering how we tend to throw a party for anything. Now, when we celebrate our Independence on September 16, 1810, that's when we party.

There are people who say that what Americans are doing every May fifth is culturally insensitive, even offensive. I've noticed that these people are rarely non-white, and very rarely Mexican. To me, what's more insulting is how we are stereotyped all year long as low wage workers and criminals, always with ten kids. Maybe one holiday won't change anything, and maybe we will still be seen the same way the rest of the year, but I have to say that Cinco de Mayo actually benefits us. This is the Hispanic St. Patrick's Day, and we Mexicans are immigrants whose holiday became an excuse to drink. And just like the Irish, we know that there's nothing bad about it. This is how we make it in America, we sell and we blend.

So here's one Mexican's opinion: celebrate Cinco de Mayo by all means. Go to Mexican restaurants and order everything on the menu. Buy gallons of tequila, Corona, Victoria, and mezcal. Wear sombreros and ponchos and T-shirts made in Mexico, sold by Mexicans. Cinco de Mayo is the one time during the year that our culture is happily embraced in one form or another, when we're not seen as a plague or used as political pawns. Let us have this at least. Have a shot of tequila with us, we'll tell you which one is the best.

Just please stop telling people that you're celebrating Mexican Independence Day.

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Gibran Mendez is a writer from the Rio Grande Valley in Texas now living in Brooklyn. He is also a Pratt Institute undergraduate in writing with a minor in film. While working on a novel, he is also working as a production assistant at Bondfire (more...)
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-Salud!: Here's to Cinco de Mayo

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