Gringo de Mayo

Gringo de Mayo
Christopher Victorio

Cinco de Mayo is ridiculous. It's not pointless because it serves the nationalist project of promoting pride in a country and its culture. And it isn't worthless, since it has worked like a charm in making Mexicans out of all ethnicities come May 5, even if the extent of commitment toward México lindo y querido is drinking Corona instead of Coors.

But celebrating Cinco de Mayo is ridiculous because it commemorates a victory that ultimately meant nothing. Sure, General Ignacio Zaragoza and his troops held off the French that glorious day of May 5, 1862, in Puebla, but the Mexican triumph was short-lived. When the French and Mexicans fought a year later on the same battlefield, the French whipped some Mexican pompi and ushered in a five-year occupation under the Hapsburg Maximillian.

I write not to diminish the actual event; Zaragoza's impoverished soldiers deserve our admiration for decimating what was then one of the world's best armies. But celebrating Cinco de Mayo is like remembering Tennyson's "Charge of the Light Brigade" for the charge while conveniently forgetting the massacre at the end.

Many people regard Cinco de Mayo as a celebration of resistance to imperial power. If only that were so. The events of that day didn't prohibit the French from turning Mexico into their Latin American playground. Mexicans taste the French legacy every morning in their pan dulce and tortas. Teenagers listlessly practice it in quinceañera waltzes. Men yelp their approval to our French conquerors whenever the mariachi violins begin their pizzicato coda.

Despite this, many Mexicans continue to celebrate Cinco de Mayo. ¿Por qué? The Nobel laureate Octavio Paz had a theory. Examining the Mexican propensity to party, Paz wrote, "The explosive, dramatic, sometimes even suicidal manner in which we strip ourselves, surrender ourselves is evidence that something inhibits and suffocates us. Something impedes us from being. And since we cannot or dare not confront our own selves, we resort to the fiesta."

There's something there. Strangely, Mexicans enjoy harping over the country's inability to defeat foreign aggressors. Look at the examples: The Mexican government bemoans the Conquest nearly 500 years later, simultaneously outraged that Spaniards slaughtered and raped the inhabitants of Anáhuac and angry that Montezuma acquiesced so quickly to Cortés. The annexation by los pinche americanos of half of Mexico 150 years ago because of General Santa Anna's idiocies still makes some Chicanos so miserable they start comparing themselves to Palestinians. (Palestinians! As if someone who speaks horrid Spanish, has parents born in Jalisco that are descended from Europeans, and hasn't lived a day without potable water can logically compare himself to people who have lived in the same parched spot since the time of Christ.) That pretty pochoOscar de la Hoya beat the Mexican hero Julio César Chávez—twice. And let's not talk about the underachieving Mexican soccer squad.

According to Paz, the only way to live with such a bitter legacy is to party. And Cinco de Mayo is Paz's ultimate example of celebrating to forget—even if it promotes a lie.

Mexicanos al grito de guerra:let's confront our perpetual self-pity and stop the Cinco de Mayo celebration. Napoleon III was an egomaniac who, during his lifetime, launched France's imperialist adventures in Indochina and Africa in hopes of emulating his uncle. (For a great portrayal of how loony the Third really was, check out Claude Rains' hammy performance in 1939's Juarez.) The Maximillian-Carlota reign in Mexico is best remembered as two royals so desperate for adoration they sailed halfway across the world to find it among peasants. Yet we celebrate the memory of their conquest over us every May 5 by claiming we defeated them. That's ridiculous.

 
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119 comments
patrickfontes
patrickfontes

I get what you are saying but I dont agree with the logic behind your article. Culture is like a river, meandering here and there, widening, narrowing, changing course through various geographies. To say that we should not celebrate Cinco de Mayo because of its ORIGINAL historical happening is to say Christians should no longer celebrate Easter because its foundations are mostly pagan or Christmas which also has roots in pagan rituals and dates. Festivals and holidays are what they are to those who are celebrating them at that moment. If Cinco de Mayo is a way for Chicanos to celebrate their Chicano identity, then it IS relevant to their culture NOW, regardless of what its original meaning was. 

NO, Mexicans in Mexico no longer celebrate the holiday, but it WAS once a huge national holiday celebrated for many years during the 19th century as a reminder of how a small band of citizens could hold back an Imperial power with the love of the Motherland. Its a story of David and Goliath, hasnt that been the story of Mexico and the USA all along? YES!

The Mexican Revolution did away with celebrating May 5th. It was at this same time that Mexican immigrants began celebrating Cinco de Mayo in Los Angeles in order to remember Mexico, their cultural heritage, homeland and identity.

I dont think Gustavo's article is a must read. Its another academic attempt to squeeze in a bit of iconoclastic sophistry into what is essentially a working class chicano holiday.

AND YES THERE IS DRINKING! Guess what? Working class chicanos and Mexicanos love to party, and yes there is lots of beer. Get over it.

Whophantom
Whophantom

Who is the Senorita is all I want to know.

TheRefriedMexican
TheRefriedMexican

Gus no seas un pinche amargado, guey. Yeah the story behind Cinco De Mayo's origins is somewhat nonsensical. But do you think all those annual carnivals, get togethers, protests, parades, fiestas, bar scraps, mega boxing fights are because the Mexicans defeated the French? No boboso. Cinco De Mayo is clearly just our chance to celebrate Mexicans and Mexican culture, nothing more nothing less. Who gives a fuck how Cinco De Mayo came to be.

dixiefried12
dixiefried12

You need to do a more  ïn depth¨study of Mexican history.  Yes they defeated the French in Puebla ... The French used a debt as an excuse to invade . The Spanish were also owed mony but told the Mexican Govt. they would wait. Napoleon III wanted a stepping stone to invade the USA at a later date. Rich Mexicans who had left Mexico after the war of Reforms  convinced Napoleon 3 that Mexico really wanted a Monarch, The Vatican was for it because President Juarez had taken away much of their power, The Church had over 50% of Land Titles and had turned Mexican citizens into Serfs.  After the Battle of Puebla , the Prussians laughed at Napoleon 3 and told him ...Ignorant Indians beat your glorious army!!  He then sent a group of 40,000 soldiers to protect his interests, Puebla had to undergo a siege of 3 months which yes they lost but the French only controlled the large cities.  Sounds like ´Nam... many atrocities so when Maximilian was captured he was executed even though he / Juarez were both Masons... Juarez didnt want to do it but he said... too many innocent Mexicans have died.  There´s more to history than the text book versions.

luischairez11
luischairez11

Actually it is celebrated more here in th US because that battle in Pueblo on 5 de Mayo is what slowed down the French in conquering all of North America. That is why we celebrate....but now a days alot of people dont know that. So that helped the US not get conquered.

xcolumn
xcolumn

May take on Cinco de Mayo:


Taking Back Cinco


I grew up before Cinco de Mayo was celebrated in this country. I grew up at a time when Cinco de Mayo became a day that celebrated a victory (May 5, 1862) by an underdog, a ragtag Mexican army that repelled the invading French, the most powerful army in the world.  


I grew up when people began to confuse Cinco de Mayo for Mexican Independence Day (September 16). Perhaps that's when the problem started, as I grew up at a time when that celebration transformed or was converted by beer companies into an excuse for excessive beer-guzzling.  

I grew up a time when the words "wetback" and "beaner" were synonymous with the word Mexican. Those insults were uttered regularly in public and worse; it wasn't simply whites hurling those insults; many Mexican Americans were often the worst offenders, doing their hardest to show the world that they were Spanish or Americans, not Mexicans. They would never be caught dead speaking Spanish. 


I grew up a time when the word Mexican itself was considered a high insult. It connoted being Indian. "Spanish" - a person from Spain - was the proper term. People sometimes apologized for referring to us as "Mexicans." That's kind of why the term "Hispanic" later caught on; it was the closest you could come to calling us "Spanish." Speaking Spanish was the ultimate telltale sign that they might be Mexican, the quintessential unwelcome foreigner. 


I grew up at a time when the brown color of our skin was considered both dirty and ugly. It was a time when brown kids were shamed into wanting/wishing they were white. 


All this was during an era when it was also pounded into us that we were dirty Mexicans, not Americans. While we couldn't change our color, we were expected to lose our accents, yesterday. We were supposed to hide our Mexican flags, our music and anything else that reminded people of our ties to Mexico. 


At stores, "We don't speak Spanish," was the national motto as store employees virtually chased us away. So too "Go back to Mexico!" 


That was circa the early 1960s in Southern California. The nation, really. 


During that era, Mexicans were supposed to be meek. In the eyes of the law, we were always wrong and always guilty and, minimally, didn't belong in this country. The attitude was the same in the schools, the media and in the public square. But then something changed. 


Next thing you knew, people like Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta, Sal Castro and Ruben Salazar were in the fields, on the streets and in the news. Chavez and Huerta were labor leaders. Castro was a schoolteacher and Salazar a reporter. They taught us a different way - showed us a different way. Chavez and Huerta were organizing in the fields, fighting for the rights and dignity of all workers. They organized upon the legacy of many decades of labor organizing (Long Road to Delano, Kushner, 1975), including that of striking Pilipino workers. Castro supported young students in mass walkouts, demanding a better education. All this blossomed into a powerful national human rights movement - or linked up into one, perhaps more accurately. And Salazar was there as a respectable mainstream journalist to cover this explosive movement, only to be killed by a sheriff's deputy while covering the law enforcement assault against the National Chicano Moratorium Against the Vietnam War rally on Aug 29, 1970 ("Ruben Salazar: Man in the Middle, " PBS, April 29). 


This movement didn't have a name at first; it included the building of La Raza Unida Party and a demand for equality and land rights. Really, it was all about dignity. All of a sudden, people stopped being meek. A feeling of "brown pride" permeated the nation's barrios. No longer was there anything wrong with our skin color. The era of hat-in-hand Mexicans was over. "Si Señor" was replaced by "Si, Se Puede." Now, there was a militancy. It was the era of Chicano Power! That's when "We are not a minority" and "We didn't cross the border, the border crossed us" became etched into our subconscious. 


That's when we woke up one day with a new holiday, one that, in effect, celebrated everything about this movement: Cinco de Mayo. It was a day of celebration and a day of defiance. It was a day where cultural pride was on full display. It was a day for music, dance and the arts. It was also about voice; a day when our communities would vent our political concerns, i.e. the lack of justice and equality, police brutality, immigration raids, the dropout crisis, etc. 

But it was not long before the events were taken over by corporate sponsors; those sponsors began to discourage the political concerns. "Give them folklore; feed them and get 'em drunk" instead seemed to become the new message. And yes, it became a recipe for disaster; drinking, overpriced bad food, partying and violence … and the police were always there, ready to step in with often violent "mop-up" operations. 


And thus was born our modern Cinco de Mayo celebration: beer, beer and plenty of margaritas. And it spread to the mainstream. Happy Drinko de Mayo! What are we celebrating? Who cares? Drink up. And yes, alcoholism and violence are rampant in our barrios, but who cares, drink up. 

Well, across the country, a new consciousness is setting in. It is time to take back Cinco. For example, in Tucson, students from the University of Arizona, along with the Indigenous Calpolli Teoxicalli group of families, will be holding a sobriety run on May 3. And then a healthy food festival, along with the unveiling of a healthy cookbook. Yeah, we have another health-related crisis in Southern Arizona: sky-high rates of obesity, diabetes and heart disease. It's actually a nationwide epidemic. So this year, it's a new day, with new ways to celebrate and commemorate el Cinco: the desire to bring about a healthy community. Perhaps in the near future, this will be the way all communities celebrate Cinco de Mayo. 

whhackett3
whhackett3

Perhaps it might be better compared to an Irish wake.  Where the life and times of the dearly departed are joyously celebrated.  

Ozzy Saucedo
Ozzy Saucedo

yo no lo celebro lo conmemoro además la cerveza corona ya no es mexicana

BurroHall
BurroHall

For *exactly* the reasons you've laid out here, I've been advocating changing the name to "Día del Tope," in honor of having briefly slowed the French on their way to conquest.  And really, what's more Mexican than a tope?

Felíz Día del Tope, Gustavo!


STOPTHERECONQUISTA
STOPTHERECONQUISTA

i wonder why it is that north of the Rio Grande it is great...and south it is crap.

Aileen Calor
Aileen Calor

just an excuse to eat Mexican food. i pay homage to the beautiful poblanos by preparing chile rellenos. It's all about commercialization and it's just an excuse to party. Anyway, the gabachos in Puebla back then didn't want a Monarchy. Who wants to be suckered by kings and queens?

Lynn Maners
Lynn Maners

As I understand it, it's a holiday that started in the US in the 1860s/70s, in San Fransisco, then appropriated in the 1970s by Chicano activists. (Who also started doing/sponsoring folklorico, for the same reasons). It was never a big holiday in Mexico, except in Puebla, when I was growing up. Now, I have students from Mexico telling me that everyone got off of work on Wednesday, to begin celebrating Cinco de Mayo.

Das Bass Boot
Das Bass Boot

It celebrates the defeat of the goddamn French--aint that enough? Cinco de Mayo is right up there with other French adventures like the Battle for Algeria, the breaching of the Maginot Line, Dien Bien Phu, the Allied invasion of Normandy, etc...

Whophantom
Whophantom

I'd like to "party" with the chick in the picture ....lol

Polly Romero Salvati
Polly Romero Salvati

Great article - love the revisionist history, much like what is currently going on in GW's library.

Jim Van Matre
Jim Van Matre

I don't think Budweiser is the primary beer of cinco de mayo.

James Provencio
James Provencio

dig deeper. it has nothing to do with Mexico. it has everything to do with chicanos and raza.

Jack Radey
Jack Radey

Its OK to celebrate resistance to imperialism, even if afterwards the imperialistas did better, for a while. They aren't there now, are they? I thought the biggest problem with Cinco de Mayo was that it is celebrated primarily as a Budweiser holiday, like St. Paddy's Day and the rest of them...

cricketnoises
cricketnoises

1.  White Guys want handouts , seen at freeways with their signs. Meth heads.

Most white guys are on Social Security Disability due to being lazy and on meth or drugs.  there goes your social security funds to retire people. yet they dont mention those wasted burden tax paying dollars.... we pay for them druggies to kickback and do drugs.

2.  Mexican Migrants look for work from contractors .

3. Mexican Migrants dont like anyone including American Latinos-Chicanos, or anyone who contributed to America... such as fighting in wars or civil rights issues to make it easier and safer for them being here to bash everyone and praise mexico..  Fact is they should march home , save us all a headache and stop whining about rights , where if the people needed a job in Mexico , they wouldnt give u the time of day.

4.  Mexican Migrants love mexico and hate Americans. including Latino Americans.  they overstayed their visas...  that makes them criminals. and should be disqualified to stay. As for their anchor babies was under a criminal act.... which should nullify the babies and their babies should be with their parents In MEXICO .. not America, Viva Mexico... as for if One parent is American.. then that should be the ONLY reason and Only case where a baby should be Born to be an American.. otherwise there is no interest of american born on american soil.   Because many of these women from Mexico,  look for victims to have a baby to help their entire family to use the Baby to bypass the INS laws and system... these mothers will go as far as setting up their daughters with the Victim Husbands to get asylum citizenship based on allegations of abuse, while they deny their husbands sex. 

5.  Cinco De Mayo is a Latino Festival... many chicanos sell their items , have foods festivals cook offs. and cultural blends from mexico and spanish dishes , etc;   Many of the Mexican People try to own everything that is tied to Mexico... as if they are better than everyone else.  Most of the Mexican People are tribal indians, unless mixed with spanish or korean and asian breeds who migrated to mexico, including domincans.   As for Mexican Migrants.... most are families and are portrayed as gangsters and druggies to stereotype the rest of the Latino people.... and effects all Latino Americans who paid their dues already.

6.  Mexican Migrants do pay taxes... and do send it home to Mexico... many here are causing low paid wages because they work for nothing, and the cheap skates who pay them hurt the economy by hiring them and wages.,  although the prices of low labor is not passed onto the consumer the cheap skate businessmen rip off many and some do not pay taxes either.   its a lose lose situation, but most lazy white people wont do those jobs, because they are too lazy and spoiled. 



Luis Hernandez
Luis Hernandez

What do you have against a condiment! I don't go around saying ketchup sucks coz it's spelled two separate ways! Pick your battles dude!

yholloway5969
yholloway5969

I already know this; what we are talking abt are the Chicano panhandlers that are virtually non-existent on the streets of the USA. You can thank your POTUS for the rest of the problems we face as a nation; I didn't vote for him. If you want to get political about it, why don't you question your govt as to why they ok loans to OTHER immigrants for start up businesses? Or for schooling for that matter?

Erk Audelo Leon
Erk Audelo Leon

Aquì los gabachos y todo mundo lo miran como "fiesta time". That's very sad. Pero en fìn, prefiero ahorrarme los comentarios esta vez pero sepan que en México este no es un dìa tan importante como lo hacen aquì. No se quién diablos pensó que era hora de hacer fiesta....

Ernesto Rodriguez
Ernesto Rodriguez

U are a party pooper.... Do u really think people care what happend in the 1800's?!?!?!

RenoSepulveda
RenoSepulveda

Esta es un essayamos muy excellante'  Day-um Corona works better than those Rosetta Stone CDs I bought at the flea market.

Erick Mata
Erick Mata

I celebrate el-cinco and I am salvi but my bros b-day is 5 de mayo lol

Julian Ponce
Julian Ponce

Dude, maybe you got a bit of your own self-hate in there? Did you realize the French invasion was to support Mexicano reactionary haciendados (Tea Baggers) who wanted to chuck out Juarez (Zapotec Obama) because he was too liberal? After the clock cleaning of 1848 the World, and many Mexicanos, considered "Mexican Army" as an oxymoron. When the Foreign Legion Zouaves landed, the question for the Independent non-aligned Mexicano of the time was, "is the smart move to go with the rebellious ricos, or stick with the government?" Well, even though it was the first battle of a five year war, by showing they could win at least one battle, the Juarez government stemmed the tide of defections and gave the middle-of-the-road Mexican a reason to be patriotic without being suicidal. May 5, 1862 was as an important a political victory for Juarez and Mexico as Tet was for the NVA. Although it lead to subsequent, bloody losses, it showed that fighting back made sense. It gave hope. That matters.

Rod Klopfer
Rod Klopfer

I believe Napoleon III had plans to help the Confederacy, which is why though most Americans did not know this, it has some relevance (probably more than Mexican) to American history. It is an American victory of a battle that we did not fight. That is my take on it.

dixiefried12
dixiefried12

I saw the 5 de Mayo parade two years ago and lo and behold! here came the American flag down the street carried by Americans in Union soldier Uniforms and Abe Lincoln in a top hat.... some people nearby said... ¨What has Abe Lincoln got to do with 5 de Mayo ? I told them... After the Battle of Vicksburg, Lincoln confiscated 20ñ000 rifles and sent them to Juarez to help fight the French. He knew what Napoleon 3 was plotting. After the CIVIL WAR ended he called the French Ambassador in for a talk and told him ...I suggest you get out of Mexico or soon you will be facing Americans along with Mexicans. You are violating the Monroe Doctrine !!  The French couldnt battle a two front war, they were already having problems with Prussia, so they pulled out. They suggested to Carlotta and Maximillian to pull out with them but Carlotta did'nt like the idea of being demoted to a Duchess. She told Max... I'll go to France and convince my Uncle Nap to return the troops. She couldnt do it. Max only had Conservatives to back him and was soon routed out of Mexico City and was executed. 

GET the whole story dudes.... and hey they're sure are a lot of racists here!!  The USA is becoming a 3rd world country thanks to your politicians ...Not because of immigrants.  Duh! wake up.

dubyadawg
dubyadawg topcommenter

Wrong. It's slowly being sucked dry by illegals. Go find a desert and stay.

JC DeVivero
JC DeVivero

Half of my ancestors were on the other side of this battle. Then they came over and made babies. And to summarize your article (in my opinion), los Mexicanos son (somos) fatalistas that like any excuse to party and forget.

Katherine Lopez
Katherine Lopez

Who peed iin his cornflakes? My God, man, life's too short to stuff a mushroom! Partay!!!!

Marie Blancarte-Manriquez
Marie Blancarte-Manriquez

the Mexican people eventually did get their independence from France and it had to start some place. i consider myself to be an American of Mexican decent even if my last name is BLANCARTE

Adam Gomez
Adam Gomez

BUZZ KILL. Eat, drink , and be merry... like the Irish

Dio Colindres
Dio Colindres

Unfortunately the Mexican community don't help to stop the stereotypes and the ignorance, just go to any Mexican restaurant around this time. Talk to random paisanos and ask them what they know about the 5 de mayo. Many think Mexico defeated and sent the French away, when we know the celebration is just about that battle, not the war. some people don't even know who was Maximiliano or Napoleon, how can we help our cause with this kind of ignorance?

Pasitos Jason Wells George
Pasitos Jason Wells George

Agreed, Jim. I don't know any gringos who think it's Independence Day anymore (although admittedly, few know when Independence actually is).

Jim Van Matre
Jim Van Matre

I ain't oppressed girl. And I ain't an oppressor either. You're exactly the reason why we can't get more white people to support immigration reform and open their minds. Hate begets hate girl. We need an open, friendly, productive dialogue to promote tolerance and unity. Offending each other will not further that goal.

Xanat Hernandez
Xanat Hernandez

you're an idiot. the oppressed can't oppress the oppressor. so white people stereotyping brown people is much more harmful because it carries institutional weight. go read a book and stop whining.

Don Alexander
Don Alexander

I like it. Its the Hispanic equivalent to St Patrick's Day, IMO. And besides that, one of my favorite trivia items is that General Zaragosa was born a Texican near Goliad, Texas. Anytime a Texican can kick the French's butt, tis worthy of a party that's accompanied by some cold beer. Salud!

Josue Cervantes
Josue Cervantes

I totally agree, Mexican frustration has led to partying to forget. Also, I dont mind this day being so famous, it brings attention to some parts of our culture and thats at the very least a beginning

David El Belicoso Rodriguez
David El Belicoso Rodriguez

Bajale de guevos Gus. The French occupation was 3 not 5 years. De La Hoya comproa pelea because boxing is the most corrupt sport there is not counting politics. I also object to you saying the Pueblaso meant nothing. In the end Mexico still kicked the fresas out (Monterrey not withstanding) and if that were not a fact you might still be a French speaking slave. Had it not been for those brave Mexicans the French would have supported the Confederates in El Norte and things would be much worse for everyone including Pochos like you in Califas. All that said, what greater glory than to die on a battlefield. Even si te partieron toda la mauser.

 
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