Life

Mexican for a day

May 6, 2018

Mexican for a day

Cinco de Mayo is a highly anticipated day that is celebrated among Americans all across the U.S.

Despite the holiday’s popularity, however, some feel it fails to truly embody the historical moment where Mexico fought against oppression in La Batalla de Puebla and instead continues to be a day where Mexican culture is appropriated.

“[Cinco de Mayo] is a celebration and a fight against oppression,” said SF State Latina/Latino Studies Assistant Professor, Maria L. Quintana.

On May 5, 1862 the Mexican army victoriously won the battle against the French. The battle was symbolic to Mexico because they courageously defeated the conquest of their land with a substantially smaller troop than France.

According to the Pew Research Center, 60.7 percent of Latinos in the U.S. today are Mexican.

However, Cinco de Mayo is commercialized as a holiday that is celebrated by indulging in massive amounts of tequila and tacos. People go off into the streets and wear sombreros and fake mustaches, appropriating the Mexican culture.  

Appropriation is a form of exploitation and dominance where creative and artistic forms, themes and practices by one culture group are stolen, according to the Oxford Reference

“Cinco de Mayo allows people who aren’t Mexican to be Mexican for one day,” said Quintana.  “People with no other connections for Mexican culture drink margaritas but do they really know what they are contributing to the culture?”

A couple dresses up in costumes during the Cinco de Mayo Block Party festivities taking place on Valencia Street, in San Francisco on Saturday, May 5, 2018. (Bryan Ramirez/Golden Gate Xpress)

According to the Pew Research Center, seven out of the ten largest Latino populated states are largely populated by people of Mexican origin. Making California, Texas and Arizona the three top states with the largest Latino populations.

Nick Valdez, an SF State history major, isn’t a fan of the holiday and did not celebrate Cinco de Mayo.

“It’s pretty much a day for people to get drunk, it’s not perceived pretty well,” said Valdez.

According to The Distilled Spirits Council, tequila sales more than double on Cinco de Mayo. The margarita accounts for 42 percent of cocktail sales on the holiday, making it a very lucrative sales day.

However, with tequila companies continuously promoting Cinco de Mayo as a holiday that must be celebrated with consumption of massive amounts of tequila, the true meaning of the holiday is lost.

Alyssa Santos, a recruiter for the College Track non-profit has negative feelings surrounding the holiday and how it is celebrated in the U.S.

“I think there’s a lot of misinformation and appropriation that happens on that day,” said Santos. “It’s not something that I like to partake in, especially here in San Francisco.”

In Mexican culture, Cinco de Mayo is not a holiday that is celebrated. According to Quintana, Puebla, where the battle occurred in 1862, and Mexico City are the only regions in Mexico that acknowledge the holiday.  

“I think with a lot of Mexicans and Mexican Americans it’s not something that is really celebrated in our culture, so I think it’s interesting that it’s something that is acknowledged in the United States,” said Santos.