So it’s Cinco de Mayo. I probably would have forgotten this if it weren’t for the huge Mexican flags draped over the eaves of the fancy nightclub around the corner from the office. (It’s also Liberation Day in some parts of Europe and Children’s Day in Japan!) On the WordPress homepage today is a snippet from the The Mija Chronicles blog about how Mexicans celebrate Cino de Mayo. Which is to say… well, they don’t, really. It’s a huge American thing.
It seems a little strange, because people in Mexico — or at least, people in Mexico City — don’t celebrate Cinco de Mayo. No one has the day off. There are no two-for-one margarita happy hour specials. (Chilangos don’t drink margaritas, unless they have American friends in town.) No one really throws any parties, and there aren’t any parades in the streets. The latter is really saying something, because there are parades for just about any holiday here.
Mexico City’s largest newspaper, El Universal, doesn’t even mention Cinco de Mayo on its website today. There is a big story on Paulina Rubio being pregnant.
The truth is, Cinco de Mayo has become more important in the United States than it has in Mexico. Kind of cool, isn’t it? It’s the one day out of the year when we get to acknowledge that Mexico has influenced who we are as Americans, through food and drink and music. (For a little Cinco de Mayo food history, check this AOL News story, which traces the American roots of a few popular dishes.)
The most important part of the holiday, to me, is the idea that Mexican influence and Mexican-American identity are positive things, and not anything we should ignore or view with suspicion.
It’s not really all that surprising that, while not a significant holiday to the Mexicans (the day commemorates defeat over the French in some historic war), the Americans just love it. Not to downplay how great it is that there’s finally a day when Americans might finally stop belittling Mexicans and take a sincere interest in their culture. (And, can we finally acknowledge the important contributions of ethnic and racial groups with more than just tidbits about random inventions?!!). But unless Cinco de Mayo falls on a weekend, when BBQs and picnics with Mexican food samplings might be more feasible (it sure is nice out!), I know that most of my fellow city dwellers are heading to the bars to chase the happy hours. Cinco de Mayo, like St. Patty’s Day, is for Americans, basically a reason to go out with friends and scout the best Happy Hour.