Cinco de Mayo Is Not Another Reason to Get Wasted
Let me see if I understand this: Some of us would like our government to put up a fence to keep Mexicans in Mexico, maybe even post sharpshooters along our border with them so they know who’s boss, yet we’ve turned the anniversary of one of their wars with another country into our beer-drinking holiday. Like we need another one.
Cinco de Mayo is a much bigger deal in the U.S. than it is in Mexico. In fact, they make no deal about it at all. Leave it to us to turn a six-degrees-of-negative-historical connection into a fiesta.
Though American first-graders look adorable wearing construction-paper headdresses and dressed as pilgrims, colonialism always was and always will be straight-up mafia. The Aztecs in Mexico got the same high-handed treatment by Europeans as the Native Americans did up here, and that went on for more than 300 years in Mexico until the unthinkable happened, at least unthinkable to us: Conservatives and liberals were fed up enough to rally around the same problem. Mexicans united in their disgust at being bullied by Spain’s bad government on Mexican soil, and they rebelled against the Spanish until Mexico finally became independent in 1830, which wasn’t on May 5th.
Revolutions are never cheap; Mexico borrowed a lot of money, and once their long battle with Spain was over and won, Mexico’s debtors were not far behind, looking for repayment. By the time France showed up for their money, Mexico didn’t have have a pot to piss in because the U.S. got there first and got repaid, so it was really kind of the U.S.’s fault that Mexico then had to fight off France. We did sort of throw our military weight behind Mexico at the time, mostly because our Civil War was wrapping up, and the last thing the Yankees needed was a bunch of Frenchmen marching up from Mexico into the Confederate states, helping the South. With mostly their own might, less men, and very minimal bloodshed as far as wars go, Mexico prevailed against France—on May 5, 1862, which WAS NOT Mexican Independence Day.
Even if Cinco de Mayo were Mexican Independence Day, what the hell would that have to do with us? There are a fair amount of American citizens who, if they even paid attention to anyone else’s history, would love the idea that France got its ass kicked by Mexicans, but those are probably the same people who will nod their heads in vehement agreement when Mitt Romney gets out on the trail for real and starts outlining his immigration plan as a tall, electrified fence. Also, we already have a whole list of American-only holidays, declared by Americans, for Americans. We even have our own Independence Day, conveniently in the middle of summer. It is so like us to dig around in another country’s business, looking for any excuse for a party.
I present this fine historical summary because Cinco de Mayo is my birthday. It wasn’t until the mid-’80s that I heard the day referred to in Spanish, and people started treating me like I was born on Christmas. How did my parents get away with all those years of just coffee and cake with the neighbors in my honor when their first child’s arrival was on such an auspicious date? Could I be special after all? According to my siblings, brats who don’t know anything, no, but according to important people like beer executives, lime growers, tequila makers, and ALL the bar managers who will put tacos on their special boards: Yes, I am.
The gods must smiling on the U.S. this year because our two favorite fake holidays—St. Patrick’s Day and Cinco de Mayo—both fall on Saturdays in 2012. There’s even a super moon, rising this Saturday, when the full moon is closest to Earth. Enjoy the lunar spectacle with your sane friends and some Corona, but don’t bother to toast Mexican Independence because that’s not until September 16th. You can toast me, though. Now more than ever I need all the feliz cumpleaños I can get.