No, I won't be celebrating Cinco de Mayo – but I'm glad that it will be celebrated

No, I won't be celebrating Cinco de Mayo – but I'm glad that it will be celebrated

Today, we're going to talk about something other than food.


Today, we'll talk about Cinco de Mayo.

Cinco de Mayo, of course, is the day when we celebrate the Five Great Powers (ketchup, yellow mustard, brown mustard, relish and their leader – Tabasco sauce) finally defeating mayonnaise in the Great Condiment War of 1837.

(Wait, something's wrong here. Yup, something's definitely wrong. A quick Web search shows that it actually has something to do with a Mexican battle that eventually helped lead to independence for the country. Tabasco sauce wasn't even involved. Bummer.)

I tend to ignore Cinco de Mayo, mostly because I am not Mexican. In the same way, I tend to ignore Rosh Hashanah, mostly because I am not Jewish. Heck, I am mostly Irish and I still tend to ignore St. Patrick's Day most years. I'm very happy that these holidays are celebrated in America – and I fully support celebrations of said holidays, official or otherwise – because it speaks to our great cultural melting pot. I simply have no attachment to them.

(For the record, I also tend to ignore Bastille Day, Boxing Day, Guy Fawkes Day and Australia Day. I do – however – make sure to celebrate Talk Like a Pirate Day, on the off chance that one of my ancestors happened to be a pirate.)

If Valentine's Day has become a way to get people – regardless of culture or race – to buy heart-shaped items in bulk, Cinco de Mayo has become a way to get people – regardless of culture or race – to buy margaritas in bulk.

Not that there's anything particularly wrong with that. It's not really a popular holiday unless you can mass-consumerize it.

But there's also a real holiday behind Cinco de Mayo, just like there are real holidays behind Thanksgiving, Easter, Christmas and the Fourth of July. And whether it's a cultural or religious holiday, to some it means more than simply food, drink and merriment.

I might tend to ignore Cinco de Mayo, but I'd happily stop by a public celebration or festival and join in on the fun if I ran across one on Cinco de Mayo. But I would just be taking part in free fun. I wouldn't be celebrating the day or the meaning behind it. But I think it's important to remember that there are those who do.

According to a Huffington Post article on the meaning of Cinco de Mayo:

Mexican Americans often see the day as a source of pride. "One way they can honor their ethnicity is to celebrate this day, even when most don't know why," Jody Agius Vallejo, a sociology professor at the University of Southern California and author of Barrios to Burbs: The Making of the Mexican-American Middle Class, told AP. But the meaning has morphed over time.

"To others," she added, "this holiday is kind of viewed as a joke because they feel it's their culture that is being appropriated and exploited, and not all are happy with the change."

Just like every other holiday, it's all in how you see it. I probably won't do anything for Cinco de Mayo today – especially since I'll be traveling through northern Indiana for a big chunk of it; celebration indeed – but I'm happy that it exists for those who find real meaning behind it. And to all those people, have a very happy Cinco de Mayo.

• Joe Grace is a writer and longtime journalist who lives in Chicago. Write to him at

Filed under: Columns

Leave a comment