Rethinking Cinco de Mayo: Building a multicultural bridge
Cinco de Mayo gives an extraordinary opportunity to celebrate our culture.
I could go into all the details as to how the holiday became popular in the United States. I could talk about how in the Sixties the Chicano Movement embraced it as a symbol of cultural pride or how in the 90s corporations began capitalizing on the fast growing and lucrative Latinz market and seized the date to increase sales. I could complain about how some still confuse this rather minor holiday in Mexico with Mexican Independence Day, perhaps because Cinco de Mayo is easier to pronounce than Quince or Dieciseis de Septiembre. But what I really want to focus on is the concept that Cinco de Mayo has become a cultural bridge. It is a day that brings different cultures together in celebration.
The United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) emphasizes the importance of intangible cultural heritage as a factor in maintaining cultural diversity in the face of growing globalization and as a tool that encourages mutual respect for other ways of life through intercultural dialogue.
In these difficult times for the Mexican and Latinx communities in the United States, and among national discourse on immigration that aim to separate us, we need a positive cultural bridge like Cinco de Mayo to remind us of the deep appreciation we have for each other.
Today as an immigrant living in the United States I care about celebrating Cinco de Mayo because it not only reminds me of how incredible our culture is, it also helps me keep it alive and share it with everyone.
The history of Cinco de Mayo
Cinco de Mayo is actually Battle of Puebla Day, commemorating the defeat of Napoleon III in 1862. Mexico’s Independence Day is September16.
Many Puebla residents are conversant about the 1862 battle and how naval forces from Great Britain, Spain, and France traveled to Mexico to negotiate financial debts. Spain and England settled their conflicts and left quickly but France decided to fight, believing they would be the easy victors and could establish a French colony in Mexico. Mexican soldiers, greatly outnumbered, prevailed. The battle is a source of pride but not necessarily a major national holiday.
Historically, El Cinco de Mayo is a U.S. holiday that originated after the Gold Rush and during the U.S. Civil War, and was celebrated in California, and to a lesser extent in Nevada and Oregon.
During the 1960s Civil Rights Movement, activists incorporated Chicana/o interests by strengthening cultural ties between Mexico and the United States. The United States had historically looked favorably upon the Battle of Puebla because in 1862 U.S. leaders feared having France at its backdoor, during the U.S. Civil War. Thus, more than 100 years later, Cinco de Mayo was readily embraced as a new U.S.-Mexican holiday.