Outside of Puebla, Mexicans barely remember one victorious battle in a war that was ultimately lost to invading French forces. But here in the United States, May 5th 1862 has been bottled, packaged and sold.
Few people imagine that Cinco De Mayo observations began decades after its occurrence. Wealthy Mexicans who fled the Revolution of 1910 to the United States were still loyal to dictator Porfirio Diaz who had gained military rank in Puebla before being forced out of political power. Likewise in Texas, el Cinco was recognized because tejano General Ignacio Zaragoza was responsible for orchestrating the famous Batalla.
It was the U.S. Southwest, not Mexico, which constructed the festive Cinco De Mayo as a symbol of binational pride.
With time, the children of immigrants gained leadership positions in their communities and owned the celebration. Cultural organizations and non-profits would host festivities that awarded scholarships and pushed for the Americanization of Mexican descended groups, especially in the World War II era that called for the patriotism and military enlistment of Mexican-Americans. These attitudes evolved with the Chicano movement as brown students and activists fought for better education, labor rights and improved conditions in a system that neglected their needs.
By the 1970s Cinco De Mayo provided brown U.S. Citizens with a sense of belonging and a model of anti-imperial people power.
Seeing the value of the Latino market, corporations latched on to the holiday, stripped it of its historical significance and commercialized it. In the 1980s, California breweries actively placed ads in restaurants, bars, and supermarkets that promoted beer as a staple of Latino lifestyle. The Corona and Modelo brands devised advertisements with beach-resort imagery in order to relate Spring Break to Cinco De Mayo and maximize the appeal to the white consumer.
Coors Company, which was once boycotted for its racist hiring practices, agreed to settle and give millions of dollars to national Mexican-American non-profits in exchange for promotional access to Latino drinkers. Mexican fundraisers and conferences got free beer!
The ripple effect is history. Today we see the legacy of corporate cultural appropriation in beer and tequila campaigns—though no longer confined to the alcohol industry —with sloppy Spanish word-play such as “Cinco de Drinko”, “Cinco de Miller” and “Cuervo Cinco”, and so on.
Alcohol themed marketing combined with America's prejudiced understanding of Mexicans as mustached “poncho”-and-sombrero-wearing foreigners turned Cinco De Mayo into a monetized, arguably obnoxious day.
5 ways to reclaim the integrity of Cinco De Mayo:
1 . Teach factual history to the community so it doesn't fall for corporate and big media messaging
2. Attend or donate to cultural and community-based events and, if possible, resist corporate-funded Cinco de Mayo parties
3. Educate American consumers with historical context and demand to be portrayed with respect
4. Choose alcoholic drinks that do not spend millions of dollars on ads for Cinco de Mayo, i.e. like imported or regional beers and tequila
5. If you do go to that Happy Hour, take it easy carnal! Don't follow the hype.
By: Jackie Serrato
Tags: 5, 5 ways, advertisement, American, Batalla de Puebla, battle, beach resort, beer, brown, California, Chicano, Cinco de Drinko, Cinco de Mayo, commercialization, consumer, Cuervo, cultural appropriation, five, France, French, Ignacio Zaragoza, Madero, marketing, may, May 5th, Mayo, Mexican, Mexican Revolution, Mexican-American, Miller, porfiriato, Porfirio Diaz, Puebla, reclaim Cinco De Mayo, reclaiming, Revolucion Mexican, Spring Break, tequila, Texas, World War II