The True Meaning of Cinco de Mayo

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Margaritas, tacos, parties, sombreros, and insensitiveness comes out here in the U.S. once Cinco de Mayo arrives on our calendars. Seeing a picture of our president eating a taco bowl while saying “I love Hispanics!” only adds to the insensitivity.

It is a very important date in Mexican culture and indeed a cause for celebration, but has it been altered or Americanized? It is not called “Cinco de Drinko,” as some have nicknamed it, or “Corona de Mayo” as Snapchat has filtered it to be. Most do not even know what they are celebrating or why their friends ask them to go for a drink on that date; all they know is that there is another excuse to get drunk at the cost of disrespecting people’s culture and heritage by stereotyping mustaches, sombreros, and adding Cinco de Mayo to every promotion.

Cinco de Mayo is not the date when Mexico got their independence; Mexico fought for independence from Spain on September 16, 1810, with el “Grito de Dolores” carried out by Miguel Hidalgo and won on August 24, 1821, with the signing of the Treaty of Cordoba. Cinco de Mayo is something different but still a big part of Mexican history.

May 5th, 1862 marks the date that Mexican soldiers stood their ground against French soldiers in the small town of Puebla. Not only were they outnumbered, but the French had better artillery and still lost more men than the Mexican army, which was led by General Ignacio Zaragoza. This was one of the most historic battles in the war between Mexico and France since it was not likely that the poorly equipped and outnumbered Mexican troops would push back the better prepared French army, which was led by General Charles Latrille de Lorencez.

The French invaded Mexico since the country just lost economic resources and was in debt, having just come out of their own civil war amongst conservatives and liberals who sought for control of Mexico. After the civil war, or “Guerra de Reforma,” which was a three-year war from December 17,1857-January 1, 1861, Benito Juarez became president – and, coming from the liberal side, he had big shoes to fill.

As governor of Oaxaca during the war against the U.S., he pushed for a resistance against the Treaty of Guadalupe Hildago as well as against the United States. The early years of his presidency were tough; the civil war made the country lose both lives and economic infrastructure. At this time, the Mexican government stopped all payment of debt to Spain, Great Britain, and France – enraging all three countries. As a result, the three sent troops to Veracruz, Mexico to demand their payment, although Spain and Great Britain withdrew their forces. France, on the other hand, which was led by Napoleon III, looked to not only get repaid but to also expand their empire, so he stayed to fight and conquer.

May 5th, or Cinco de Mayo, was the date in which the 6,000 Frenchmen entered Puebla expecting an easy victory, but instead found themselves with 2,000 courageous Mexican soldiers who would not give up and held their ground to win that battle. Although in the long run, the French came back with more soldiers to take over the city, this event is of importance because it shows the fight and determination the Mexican people had and always will have – whether it was back then or in the world of today.

Vanessa Labrada, a student at SMC, said, “It just sucks that people associate tacos, margaritas, mustaches and ponchos and all that stuff with that day like it’s the one day you can appreciate Mexican culture. When I hear Cinco de Mayo, I think of Mexican pride and the impact the culture has in LA, but it just seems like an excuse to drink and have racist themed parties.”

Many people do not seem to know why the celebration exists. For this reason, the Adelante Club will be holding a Latino Festival on the campus quad this upcoming Thursday, May 11, 2017, from 11:15 a.m. – 12:35 p.m. This event “aims to bring unity, celebrate the diversity of the SMC community and bring about cultural awareness. Through this we hope to share our heritage, music, engage in activities and dine with delicious food,” said Ricardo Monterrubio, President of Adelante.

There will be special guests, like Professor Romo from the Sociology Department, to inform the SMC community about the true meaning of Cinco de Mayo and how it has been Americanized and misinterpreted. This event will not only celebrate the country of Mexico but also countries like Brazil, Argentina, Columbia, Guatemala and El Salvador because not everyone who is Latino is Mexican. There will be speeches, soccer, food and music, which makes for a great event right on campus to participate in while getting informed.

So whether you are at the Santa Monica Cinco de Mayo Pub Crawl at the Circle Bar or eating at Gilbert’s El Indio down on Pico and 25th, be sure to be courteous and not disrespect the culture of the Mexican people because it is not just a date to drink Coronas or margaritas, or stuff tacos down your throat because you think that is all the Mexican people eat. Nobody is saying to not celebrate; the Mexican people only ask that you do so respectfully and safely while embracing the culture and appreciating the brave Mexican people who stood with all their heart and courage to defend what was theirs. It is a victory that is dear to the people of Mexico. Happy Cinco de Mayo!