On Cinco de Mayo, a 'ridiculous' U.S. holiday
If you're in the United States, May 5 is an unofficial national holiday. Countless house parties, cultural festivals and bar specials will honor Cinco de Mayo, a Mexican holiday commemorating the Battle of Puebla in 1862, in which Mexican defenders beat back a powerful invading army from France.
But if you're in Mexico, today is ... Que? It's a holiday?
Among the many contradictions and ironies of Mexican-U.S. relations is the curious case of Cinco de Mayo. It is a holiday in Mexico, yes, but not nearly as important to the national identity as say, Independence Day (Sept. 16). Yet Cinco de Mayo remains a stubbornly prevalent excuse to party in the U.S., perhaps, some argue, because it is more culturally "safe" than honoring Mexico's independence. The phenomenon is similar to the affection Americans have for St. Patrick's Day, where just about everyone is invited to don green and get in touch with their inner Irish.
Almost 140 years after the Battle of Puebla, Cinco de Mayo is so ingrained in the U.S. consciousness that even the White House celebrates it. And this year, so will the Phoenix Suns. The basketball pros will take the court in a Western Conference semifinal game against the San Antonio Spurs wearing "Los Suns" on their jerseys.
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.
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-- Daniel Hernandez in Mexico City
Photo: Lazaro Arvizu, of Xipe Totec dance troupe, plays a flute during a performance that is part of the Cinco de Mayo festivities at El Pueblo de Los Angeles on May 5, 2010. Credit:Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times.