Commentary: Cinco de Mayo is not your excuse to drink

Karla Rendon, Editor in Chief

Cinco de Mayo may have just been celebrated Thursday, but the excitement for “Drinko de Mayo” has surfaced the Internet for weeks in anticipation. Blogs have made definitive lists of tequila-based drinks for the holiday while Party City has advertised repugnant costumes that reinforce the Mexican stereotype in order to prep for a “fiesta.”

These cheap associations of Mexican culture are not new, and Cinco de Mayo sadly continues to be heavily associated with alcohol and an excuse to get embarrassingly drunk.

Losing the visibility behind Cinco de Mayo’s significance in exchange for a commercialized day is demeaning, and it is upsetting to see the culture behind the holiday be diminished.

It is ridiculous how the commercialization made the holiday into a bigger deal here in the U.S. than it is celebrated in Mexico.

In Mexico, most of the major activities such as parades and celebrations honoring Cinco de Mayo are held in the state of Puebla, and schools typically have a day off for students.

Although Cinco de Mayo is not largely celebrated in Mexico, it still does not excuse the appropriation committed by people looking for an excuse to drink.

The continuation of commercializing Cinco de Mayo has diminished the true celebration behind the holiday–victory.

Commonly confused as “Mexican Independence Day,” (which by the way, is really on Sept. 16), Cinco de Mayo is actually in commemoration of the Mexican army’s triumph against France in 1862. The holiday specifically marks the day General Ignacio Zaragoza’s 2,000 Mexican soldiers defeated General Charles Ferdinand Latrille’s 6,000 soldier army after they attacked Puebla de Los Angeles, an east-central Mexican town. With only about 100 Mexican soldiers dying in battle versus the 500 body count the French endured, it was an unlikely victory on Mexico’s part, hence the celebration behind Cinco de Mayo.

As a Mexican-American, it is disheartening each time I see Cinco de Mayo as nothing but an excuse to have a “fiesta,” (a “fiesta” that often includes dramatically oversized sombreros, ostentatious ponchos and bulky fake mustaches.) America reduces the holiday for commercialization, but I refuse to let Cinco de Mayo continue to be a cash cow for tequila and beer companies.

The stereotypical costumes Party City and other online offenders offer are cheap, and they only further reinforce a tired stereotype that my community has proved to grow beyond. It is exhausting to see my community portrayed as nothing but drunks, and it is daunting to have a significant day in Mexican history be appropriated into anything less.

With a record of 33.7 million Mexican-Americans living in the U.S. according to Pew Research Center, my demographic completes nearly 10 percent of the American population.

You would think that with such a high percentage of Mexican-Americans living in the U.S., people would be better understanding of our culture and be more sensitive than to degrade a meaningful holiday.

Year after year I see protests of people fighting against the cheapened version of Cinco de Mayo in the U.S., but year after year those people get ignored. It is time to stop associating Mexico with “fiestas” full of alcoholics and it is time for people to find some other reason to drink, because my culture’s history deserves better than to be degraded into being a reason to get bargain margaritas.

So before you take that double shot of cheap tequila, don your most offensive costume and caption some blurry and unflattering picture of yourself on Instagram with “Happy #CincoDeDrinko #DrinkoDeMayo!!,” reflect on the significance behind Cinco de Mayo, and remember that my culture and its holidays are not your excuse to get trashed.

Karla Rendon, a senior journalism major, is editor in chief for the Campus Times. She can be reached by email at karla.rendon@laverne.edu and on Twitter @WritingRendon.

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