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The perversion of Cinco de Mayo

When Did Cinco de Mayo Become Cinco de Money Or Cerveza de Mayo?Cinco

When did Cinco de Mayo
Become
Cinco de Money?
Or
Cerveza de Mayo?
Cinco de Mayo,
La Batalla de Puebla
The defeat of French
Colonialism in Mexico
To celebrate Mexico’s
First full-blooded Zapotec Indian
President, Benito Juárez
And popular uprizing
Of humble
Campesinos and obreros
Rising up against
The imperial army
Of Napoleon

When did Cinco de Mayo
Become
Cinco de Money
Or
Cerveza de Mayo?
Instead of a time
To celebrate the
Revolutionary achievements
Of Mexicanas y Mexicanos
And their glorious
Tradiciones de resistencia
And their ambitions
For libertad, autodeterminación
Y liberación

When did Cinco de Mayo
Become
Cinco de Money
Or
Cerveza de Mayo?
A drunk fest
A Green, white and red
Corporate day to
Get America drunk enough
To forget injustice,
Inequality and national oppression
A day of belligerence
Chile, beans, encheritos,
And Chihuahuas
Muchos stereotypes and
Fiestas de ignorancia

When did Cinco de Mayo
Become
Cinco de Money
Or
Cerveza de Mayo?
When did the connection
Between Mexico’s lucha
Por la independencia
Become severed from
La Raza, viviendo en el ábdomen
Of U.S. Imperialism
Luchando por la justicia
Igualdad y autodeterminación?
When did it stop being
A celebration of la gente
To honor activists and martyrs
For the cause of social justice?
When did it cease to be
Una celebración de la lucha,
Las tradiciones y la cultura
De nuestra gente?

When did Cinco de Mayo
Become
Cinco de Money
or
Cerveza de Mayo?
When corporations poured
Milliones de dólores y
Milliones de cervezas
To intoxicate La Raza
Y toda la gente enough
To forget what’s important
Pero los ideales del
Cinco de Mayo siguen
The ideals continue
To thrive in the hearts
And minds of la gente,
The people who remain
Politically sober, unaffected
By the flow of money and beer
As they celebrate
Cinco de Mayo,
A celebration of independence,
Self-determination and pride

¡Qué viva el Cinco de Mayo!
¡Qué viva Benito Juárez!
¡Qué viva la independencia de México!
¡Qué viva la autodeterminación de La Raza!

–Joe Navarro
© Copyright 2015

 

Celebrate the real Cinco de Mayo

The Way I See It-Jamala Rogers
Published in St. Louis American on May 9, 2004

It is encouraging to see African-Americans wanting to celebrate Cinco de Mayo. Our Chicano and Mexicano friends want us to know the real story, not his-story. So for those of you who was out there last weekend sucking up Coronas and eating nachos, wearing sombreros and singing “la cucarachas”, have a seat. I will give you the short version of Cinco de Mayo and the struggle of the Mexico people for self-determination.

First things first—the pronunciation. Cinco de Mayo is “ seen’ co- da- my’ o”. In this case, Mayo is not short for mayonnaise. It is Spanish for the 5th of May or May 5. Second, it is not a celebration of Mexican Independence Day. That’s celebrated on September 16 and based on Mexico’s liberation from Spain in 1821.

The people of Mexico have a long history of fighting against domination, both foreign and domestic. Cinco de Mayo commemorates the victory of Mexicans over the French at The Battle of Puebla in 1862. (Remember from my previous column on Haiti, this is not the first time French butt was kicked in the Western Hemisphere. Toussaint L’Ouverture had led the Haitian people to liberation against the French almost sixty years before this.)

The Puebla victory was part of a series of wars the Mexican people would have to fight for their soveignty. The first major one was waged against Spain in the early 1800s. Then came the Mexican-American wars; you know the U.S. was grabbing any land they could get their hands on. With the Mexican Civil War of 1858, the economy was in shambles. Mexico was forced to pay heavy debts to Spain, the U.S. and France. Like Haiti, Mexico never really recovered from such foreign debts, stifling an economy that attempted to take care of the needs of its people.

Mexican president Benito Juarez temporarily put a stop to the dollar drain on his country and stopped the payments to the oppressor countries. This outraged the three. The U.S. was embroiled in its own civil war and was in no position to push the issue. Britain stayed low as well. But France used the debt cancellation as an excuse to move on Mexico. President Juarez was a full-blooded Zapotec Indian, one of the many indigenous peoples of the North America continent before it was carved up and its native peoples wiped out. Juarez wasn’t bowing down to more subjugation and vowed that the French army would “never have a single day of peace.” He assigned General Ignacio Zaragoza to stop the attempt to set up a French imperial monarchy in Mexico. General Zaragoza led a small but determined army against the well-outfitted French. They handled their business on that day—May 5—and sent the French back across the waters.

The victory was short-lived because a year later Napoleon came back with a bigger army to set up shop even against the wishes of the French people. With the support of Mexican collaborators, Mexico City was taken and Maximillan crowned emperor. But the Mexican people had just begun to taste freedom and the Juaristas regrouped for resistance. Max was overthrown, tried by court martial and executed by firing squad in 1867, a couple of years after taking power. His bullet-riddled vest is on display at a museum in Mexico City, a reminder of the Mexican people’s formidable courage in the face of tremendous odds.

Don’t let the smooth taste fool you. Cinco de Mayo is not about beer; it’s about liberation. It’s about acknowledging a people’s yearning to be free and their cyclical struggle to gain their dignity and liberty. Black people, in particular, need to be careful about joining in the commercialization of other’s special days. All we have to do is to look at what most of the nation does on Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday and know that it has little to do with his life and sacrifice. Long live Dr. Martin Luther King! Viva el 5 de mayo!

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