Sunday, May 05, 2013

Holidays Americans Will Do

Happy Cinco de Mayo which has easily become America’s favorite Mexican holiday even if it’s not all that authentically Mexican in nature. Cinco de Mayo No Hecho en México, Actually:

People who associate Cinco de Mayo celebrations with the Mexican heritage of the United States are missing the point. Cinco de Mayo was created in the U.S. for the U.S. It has always been a uniquely American way to express the identity of Hispanounidenses, the "Hispanics of the United States."

Exactly how Cinco de Mayo turned into the signature celebration of the United States' 52 million Hispanics is a bit of a mystery—especially since it is hardly celebrated in Mexico outside of the State of Puebla. Cinco de Mayo has no association with Mexican independence. It commemorates a battle on May 5, 1862, in which the Mexican army vanquished the well-equipped French forces of Napoleon III.

No one knows exactly why Hispanics in California began celebrating Cinco de Mayo at the end of the 1860s. Nor does anyone understand why, a century later, the Chicano movement picked it up as an expression of their demands for civil rights—although that association did make the celebration even more truly American.

What we do know is that in the 1970s cultural organizers in San Francisco selected Cinco de Mayo from among a slate of holidays as the best pan-national Latino celebration in the U.S. It was a savvy choice. Most Mexicans had never heard of the holiday, so it didn't carry the risk of pitting different Hispanic nationalities against one another.

Who says we don't make anything here anymore?