History drowns in alcohol…

“People believe it’s the Mexican Independence Day, but it’s not. [It’s] the Battle del Pueblo,” Javier Hernandez, 20, political science major, said. “It’s frustrating to hear people [say] ‘Oh! It’s Cinco de Mayo, let’s go get drunk!’”

Hernandez said that many students on campus believe the tradition of Cinco de Mayo is the Mexican version of the Fourth of July, and use it as an excuse to party. Modern holiday advertisements, he added, spread a negative ethnic stereotype.

“It shows what you think about Mexicans,” he said. “Like we just get drunk all the time?”

Journalism and political science professor Rosa Santana agreed with Hernandez’s sentiments. Santana said that the day has become a primarily consumer event that misrepresents its cultural significance.

“I find that it is observed by people who want to push the sense of Mexico being just a country that is always looking for an excuse to party,” she said. “Cinco de Mayo is about a ragtag Mexican force that defeated a very sophisticated French army.”

May 5 marks the 147th anniversary of the Mexican militia’s victory over a better-equipped French army at the Battle of Puebla, a state in Mexico. General Ignacio Zaragoza Seguín, who was born in what is now Goliad, Texas, defeated a French army of around 6,000, including mounted cavalry, according to the History Channel Web site.

Santana said it is “depressing” to see that these David and Goliath stories have been belittled in favor of drunken partying; stories of men who triumphed in the face of a well-trained, better-financed, imperialist force twice its size, and whose celebration of courage and virtue in defending their country have now been replaced by a hyper-commercialized day to drink beer and eat tacos.

Santana compared the Mexican fight against a bigger, more sophisticated, imperialistic French force to the American fight independence from the English.

“Cinco de Mayo commemorates the Mexican people’s courage, bravery and national pride,” Santana said. “America can relate to the patriotic strife of another country, fighting off a larger oppressing force.”

But now, she said, the holiday is seen as just another big party day, and a blanket excuse for binge drinking.

“In general, folks who were raised in this country don’t have a lot of knowledge and who don’t understand the complexity of Mexican culture,” Santana said. “Many don’t know the history of this or any other countries, and Mexico’s is particularly important because it contributed so much to this nation.”

Andi Valenzuela, 20, co-chair of campus club Improving Dreams of Equality Access and Success, said she is frustrated with the misconception of the day, but that it is not all bad.

“I work at Olvera Street and we make a lot of money those days from people, a lot who aren’t even Latinos,” Valenzuela said.

In Mexico, she said, the holiday is known but not as widely celebrated as it is here in the United States.

Santana said that commercialization of Cinco de Mayo serves to downplay its historic significance and thus destroys important cultural heritage. She said it should not be just another occasion for beer companies to use for higher profits.

-Frank Cardenas

The Mountaineer Print Edition

Vol. 71  issue 3