Thursday, May 05, 2005

Cinco de Mayo de Cinco

Today is Cinco de Mayo (Spanish for May 5th), and not only that, but it's May 5, 2005: 05/05/05, Cinco de Mayo de Cinco, a great excuse for a party, for Mexican food and Mexican beer.

Most Americans don't have a clue what Cinco de Mayo is, aside from the fact that it's Mexican and is an good excuse to get plastered. Most people who have any idea about the holiday think it is Mexican Independence Day (May 5, July 4, what's the difference?), but actually it commemorates a rather small but surprising underdog military victory by the Mexicans against the invading French, a battle that occurred almost 40 years after Mexico's independence. In Mexico, it is a regional holiday, celebrated only in the state where the battle occurred.

I heard on the radio this morning that some in the Hispanic community are becoming uncomfortable with the way the Anglos, and particularly the Anglo commercial interests, have misappropriated Cinco de Mayo. The holiday is rapidly becoming a Mexican version of St. Patrick's Day, a holiday that is nominally Mexican but mostly an excuse for Anglos to sell food and beer to other Anglos, none of whom have any idea what the holiday is really about. Although some have tried to use interest in the holiday to bolster Hispanic pride, others have opted out of the corrupted, commercialized version of Cinco de Mayo in favor of a more significant holiday, the real Mexican Independence Day, September 16. Conveniently, that's close to Labor Day, so the Anglos are all partied-out and are less likely to co-opt it!

So what is any of this doing on a Jewish blog? (aside from the fact that I myself am planning to party tonight, though mostly because of the amusing 05/05/05 aspect of the date rather than Cinco de Mayo; we also celebrated 03/03/03, 02/02/02, and of course 01/01/01) .

I understand how some Hispanics feel about what is happening to Cinco de Mayo. I watched it happen to Chanukkah, a Jewish holiday that, like Cinco de Mayo, was a minor holiday commemorating a military victory that was distorted by commercial interests into a reason for spending money. I can imagine the dread I would feel if the Jewish holiday of Purim (which is admittedly a holiday for drinking and eating) were to be taken over by gentiles who have no idea what it meant. And I have watched a Catholic friend of mine express her frustration when people who partied all night long on Mardi Gras ask her why she's got dirt on her forehead the next morning (Ash Wednesday, which is more or less the reason for Mardi Gras).

I wish the Hispanics in our country the best of luck in trying to maintain the integrity of their holiday! And I wish anyone who celebrates it a festive Cinco de Mayo de Cinco!

(The time at the bottom of this post is, of course, altered for your amusement)

See:
  • The true meaning of Cinco de Mayo, at MexicoOnline
  • A Hispanic Mexican restaurant owner confused by the holiday, in the Sun Sentinel
  • Hispanics in Oregon looking for a better day to celebrate, at Oregon Live
  • A Hispanic community in Texas using the holiday to bolster Hispanic pride, at KWTX

13 comments:

k said...

Hey! I LOVE that idea! Purim for Gentiles! It'll be like Mardi Gras complete with beads and topless girls! And big sales in all the liquor stores! Yeah, and then we'll make a giant Haman out of balsa wood and burn him in effigy and we'll all get down and dirty in the fire light, a giant drunken bonfire orgy! Whoooooo-hooo! ;/ Oh, the horrer...

JewFAQ said...

The topless girls would, of course, be wearing hamentaschen-shaped pasties.

k said...

Of course, if they wore REAL hamentaschen for pasties, they wouldn't need glue to hold the on; the fruit filling would be a perfect (and Kosher) substitute. :)

Mellinnia Woman said...

It is a shame how Americans take holidays and use them as a way to make money and promote immoral lifestyles. Things that usually have nothing to do with the original meaning of the day in the first place.

PG said...

I was looking at the blog to find a way to thank you for this thoughtful and informative website. As a Christian, it has been such a wonderful way for me to learn more about the faith and traditions of my Jewish friends. Thanks a million. While looking for a place to express my appreciation, I ran into this Blog about Cinco de Mayo. I'm Mexican American and what you said really hit the right note. Thank you too for linking to other websites for your readers to learn more about the holiday and my culture. Yet another reason why I love the "nature" of this site! Thanks a million!

muse said...

and the Bar Mitzvah is just the party, and the hora makes a wedding Jewish...

but don't forget the money aspect, spending's the biggest religion of all

Nonnie said...

All holidays in the United States have been taken over by commercial interests--that's THEIR religion! I'm fascinated by your site--I think I was Jewish in another life.

Nonnie said...

All holidays in the U.S. have been taken over by commercial interests--that's THEIR religion! I'm fascinated by your site, having been Jewish in an earlier incarnation.

Mr_Rip_;) said...

Just ran across this blog and thought I'd leave a post of the way I heard the story.

There was this little battle in Mexico against the French. During the battle, a French cargo ship anchored of the coast was set on fire and sank. The cargo it was carrying was, of all things, mayonaise. And that's where the celebtration of 'Sinko de Mayo' originated...

Avi

Mr_Rip_;) said...

Just ran across this blog and thought I'd leave a post of the way I heard the story.

There was this little battle in Mexico against the French. During the battle, a French cargo ship anchored of the coast was set on fire and sank. The cargo it was carrying was, of all things, mayonaise. And that's where the celebtration of 'Sinko de Mayo' originated...

rsfpfrxts said...

I like your site very much! I just ask you to check your links when you have time. The link "sun sentinel" and the link "dirty Joanne" on the page before don't work but say something changed on their site.

Cindy said...

We've been having parties in Pittsburgh since 01/01/01 also, which was a simple dinner for 3...having only thought of it after midnight on New Years Eve. Is yours growing? Are you still going strong for the 07/07/07?

JewFAQ said...

We're a little limited on 07/07/07, because it's Shabbat! We've had some vague discussion about doing something later in the evening, although it's always entertaining to try to do it on the time: 07:07.

We had plans on 06/06/06, but they fell apart at the last minute; I forget why exactly. I just had a few people together on 04/04/04 (at 04:04 PM on that Sunday afternoon) and 03/03/03; 02/02/02 had the same shabbat problem. I think we did something on 01/02/03 as well, though not at 4:56, as I had hoped, because of course everybody was at work! It's just a couple of people, and mostly low-key; it's really just an excuse to get together.