Thursday, May 08, 2008
Three days late now, but Teofilo explains Cinco de Mayo:
Cinco de Mayo occupies an ambiguous place in the cultural landscape of New Mexico. Despite a common misapprehension among Anglos, it is not Mexican Independence Day. That’s September 16, or Dieciséis de Septiembre, which is a major holiday in Mexico but is virtually unheard of in the US except among Mexican immigrants themselves. Cinco de Mayo instead commemorates the battle of Puebla in 1862, a major victory for Mexican forces over an invading French army sent to collect debts owed to France by Mexico. It is not even a federal holiday in Mexico, and it is celebrated primarily in the state of Puebla. Its observance in the US originated in California shortly after the battle, when the Hispanic population, only recently conquered by the US and still having substantial connections to Mexico, began to commemorate the victory as a sign of solidarity with the Mexican people. In recent decades it has become such a major celebration in California that it has spread to other parts of the country, especially those with large Mexican immigrant populations, and it has even begun to occupy a role for Mexican-Americans such as St. Patrick’s Day occupies for Irish-Americans and Columbus Day occupies for Italian-Americans, and like those earlier immigrant holidays it is steadily becoming an excuse to party and drink even for those with no connection to the ethnicity in question. Much tequila is consumed, and underpaid employees at fancy grocery stores wear sombreros.
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