As a Mexican student studying in the United States, I have never really noticed the celebration of “Cinco de Mayo.” I know it exists of course; it is hard to ignore any party in a college campus since Friday and Saturday nights revolve around going out. When I think about my Mexican heritage, however, Cinco de Mayo celebrations do not really make an impact. I am proud of being Mexican, but celebrating it in the U.S is not really a part of that.
Back home, Cinco de Mayo represents the legendary Battle of Puebla where Mexican soldiers beat all odds and defeated the French. Although the citizens of Puebla may remember it and celebrate it accurately, in the rest of Mexico it has become just another holiday. The schools are closed and it is technically a national holiday, but for most people it is just another day. I grew up in an environment where people remembered the battle but did not really treat it like we treat Independence Day.
It is so interesting, because of this, that it is such a big deal in the United States, but is it a big deal for the right reasons? In my college campus it is mostly about margaritas and parties. There are a lot of multicultural groups on campus that push for a celebration of the day worthy of our Mexican heritage, but most people do not go to these celebrations. It is not wrong for people to go to a party with a Cinco de Mayo theme, but they should not make fun of the holiday, either.
Although you may think I am a Mexican who is offended by the U.S. treatment of this holiday, I am really not. It is not offensive because I know the people who celebrate it this way; I see what people here in college think about this holiday. Most people do not even want to offend Mexico; they just thought “Cinco de Mayo” was a cool way to call a party with margaritas. The university sends a very stern email every year urging students to be respectful and not use sombreros, tacos and tequila to celebrate, but I do not think it is the props that are wrong, it is forgetting that this is actually a part of the Mexican heritage.
The problem is not that this holiday is over-celebrated at all; it is just that the original memory of the day might be compromised. This is not a call to ban all Cinco de Mayo celebrations and it is definitely not a request to U.S. citizens to stop drinking margaritas and eating tacos on this day. This account is mainly a story. A story about remembering a legendary day in Mexico City when the soldiers faced certain death but instead pushed forward and survived, and this is coming from me: remembering can definitely include margaritas and food. Keep your parties with margaritas, keep wearing those sombreros around your day, just try to think at least for a minute of what this holiday might mean to someone in Puebla.
A Cinco de Mayo party is still a party with a few traditional dishes and just a bit of remembrance.
The reality is that there is a thin line between celebrating and offending. There is also a thin line between remembrance and ridicule. I have been lucky enough to witness parties that, although do not really remember the history, at least do not work towards offending the Mexican people. I am not telling Mexicans to not care about the way Cinco de Mayo is celebrated, but do not be too offended just because it is a margarita party in the U.S.
I have come to accept the celebration here and have worked on my remembrance of the day instead of worrying about the way others remember. Instead of being offended, be proud of your heritage and talk to those around you. Celebrate Cinco de Mayo with them. Tell your friends about the legendary Battle of Puebla that is celebrated in your country over a round of refreshing and colorful margaritas.