Thursday, May 05, 2005

Ambivalent About Cinco De Mayo

So it's my favorite holiday of the year (along with St. Patricks Day) and I'm kinda torn. I love Cinco De Mayo because of experiences with the holiday and my family get togethers. Of course, all of this took place back in the southwest, i.e. New Mexico, Arizona, and Texas. Ohio is a much different experience.

As a child, my mother and her family always had a small get together. Being that there weren't many Mexican families in that small Texas town, they would go to a small park outside of town to celebrate. They'd usually end up making fajitas. You see, fajitas was poor people's food back then. Fajitas was really just scraps of meat from fancier cuts, so they'd cook these up and you've got fajitas. Funny how now you go someplace and they charge you $20 for them.
Whenever I lived in Clovis, NM and we went to visit my mom's family in that Texas town, we passed that park all the time. Much as my mother loved to reminisce about the park, my old man would never stop. My father was always a "use the bathroom now because we're not gonna stop" kinda guy, which explains why on road trips, I leave extra early and take my time.

Even in college in Arizona, Cinco De Mayo was a great time. We'd go to our favorite local Mexican restaurants / cantinas and they'd always put on the dog so to speak. They'd have mariachis, big name bands, and tons of beer and tequila. Tons of people, good music, great food, and overall a good vibe. However, the fact that the holiday has been exploited consistently by alcohol manufacturers looking to boost their marketshare of Hispanics is troubling. Remember, it was a local holiday that was more of a low key event more so than anything. Beer companies came up with the idea of distributing calendars with Mexican heroes and sponsoring celebrations in Hispanic communities to build market loyalty.

It is a day to reflect though. As a kid, there were almost no positive images of Hispanics anywhere. Every movie (and still to some extent today) almost every Hispanic character was a maid, gardener, or gang member. I never saw a Hispanic lawyer, a Hispanic doctor, or a Hispanic female who was a professional. I was lucky because I grew up in a state that had an entrenched Hispanic population that didn't let themselves be pushed aside. So there were Hispanic doctors, lawyers, and business people in the state. New Mexico is an anamoly in this sense. After the Mexican-American war and the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, most Hispanic populations in the what was once Mexico slowly and surely allowed themselves to be marginalized. Not New Mexico; in fact, there were still pockets of armed resistance until years after the war ended. Hispanics kept their old Spanish land grants and even to this day are fighting to have their ancestral deeds recognized by the US government which promised so. Yes, I was luckier than most to have grown up there and my parents always said we could do what we wanted. But I didn't want to be seen as a Mexican-American kid. Life could be tough enough coming from a working class background without having to live life in the hyphen as well. But as you get older, you get that sense of wanting to know more about your family and roots. The more I know, the prouder I become of where I'm from and what my family is truly about.

Now, last year, Cinco De Mayo was a good time. I went out with some friends from work and celebrated. Nothing spectacular but a good time. I was the only Mexican-American in about half the bars we went to. Most of the "Cinco De Mayo celebrations" consisted of dollar off Coronas and dollar off of shots of tequila. They might hang a Corona banner but thats about it. No mariachis, not even salsa or merengue or any music that could be considered latin. We'll see how this year turns out. Ohio just doesn't get into the whole Cinco De Mayo vibe yet but there is hope. Last summer, there was a Latin Music celebration at a nearby music pavilion. It was amazing how many Hispanics showed up. Awesome!! Tons of Mexicans, Cubans, Puerto Ricans, Colombians, Peruvians, Argentinians, and tons more. So I have hope for Ohio yet!!!

I've promised my mom and my grandmother that if I ever get married,
I'd have mariacis are the wedding.

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