May 5, 2020

Cinco de Mayo is not what you think it is, it's even better!

It's May 5th, 2020.  I showed you the beach scene in Florida yesterday with the guy giving a brodacious bro-hug to a beach patrol officer, unprotected... 

...well, brothers and sisters, the madness continues.  Yesterday in Austin Texas, a park ranger was pushed in the river for telling people to keep a "safe 6 foot distance"...

... and if that wasn't enough, a man was shot in Michigan after asking a patron of a dollar store to wear a face mask!@*((*!  (No video available, thank goodness.)

Fortunately, May 5th hasn't always been this bad, historically speaking that is, for:

On this day in 1862, the unofficial holiday of Cinco de Mayo begins, which might surprise you, but it is more of a U.S. holiday than anywhere else, according to "On This Date" by Carl M. Cannon.  

The unofficial holiday is assumed by gringos, and even many Hispanics, to be a Mexican version of July 4.  That's not accurate.  Although Cinco de Mayo ostensibly celebrates a temporal military victory by the Mexican Army over a French expeditionary force in the city of Puebla on this date, it was an occasion that took hold among Mexicans living north of the border as a way of commemorating their Union sympathies in America's Civil War. 

News traveled slowly in the mid-nineteenth century, so Mexican miners working in California's Mother Lode region didn't learn of Mexico's victory by the Puebla defenders over the French troops dispatched to North America by Napoleon III until three weeks after the fact.  Once they heard, though, the party started.  In some ways, it's never stopped. 

In the gold Rush country of Northern California, fireworks were set off; rifles were fired into the air at mining camps in Nevada; spontaneous fiestas broke out in labor camps as far north as Oregon.  The most organized celebrations among the vast Mexican diaspora in the West were held in Los Angeles, where Mexican-American politicians hosted rallies and delivered patriotic speeches.  Many Americans believed that the French intention was to arm the Confederacy of Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis.  This was an overblown fear, but Cinco de Mayo was a chance for Mexican-Americas living in California to revel in their loyalty to the Union. 

A dozen years before, many Mexican-American politicians had changed their citizenship without changing their addresses when California was admitted to the United states as the thiryt-first state.  Like St. Patrick's Day, Cinco de Mayo first became an American holiday re-exported back to the country of its origin and, then, one disseminated ot the four corners of the Earth. 

Mexican-born Jose M. Alamillo, a professor of Chicano studies at California State University, Channel Islands, first heard of Cinco de Mayo in elementary school--after moving to the United States with his family when he was eight.  "It's not a Mexican holiday, not an American holiday, but an American-Mexican holiday," Alamillo told Time Magazine.  "They had to kind of make the case for fighting for freedom and democracy and they were able to link the struggle of Mexico to the struggle of the Civil War, so there were simultaneous fights for democracy."

Today, fittingly, it has evolved into a broader and equally noble cause:  celebrating the ethnic diversity that makes this free country a rich and vibrant cultural mixing bowl.

Chew on that Sir Donald Trump!  It's another thing in the world not about you!

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