Monday, May 5, 2008

Cinco de Mayo: what a horrible hijacking of a holiday!

Yes, Cinco de Mayo. A "holiday" I think I first heard of maybe 12 years ago. In that time, Cinco has become a Latino St. Patrick's Day, a drink-drink day focused on Corona instead of Guinness, with tacos and salsa verde instead of corned beef and cabbage. Whoopee! Let's party!

And just like St. Patrick's Day, you've got bluenoses decrying the way the day has been turned into a marketing opportunity by breweries/food companies/everyone. This whining is typical; this is the one that actually set me off today. "Waaaah!" the chorus goes, "this isn't Mexico's Independence Day (I don't remember anyone actually saying that, they usually just say "Happy Cinco!" and hand me a beer), it's about Mexican peasants beating invading French troops (according to this much-more detailed account, they were actually Mexican troops in fortifications, armed with older muskets, not peasants with machetes fighting guerrilla-style). They don't even celebrate it in Mexico, you stupid Anglos. Don't drink beer!"

Hey, grow up. Where are you, as Mexican-Americans, when President's Day is a white sale, and Memorial Day is the day grill sales start in earnest, and July 4th is a chance to sell cars? Where are you for Christmas, which sells a hell of a lot more booze than Cinco? Where's your outrage then?

I'll tell you where. You're saving it for Cinco, because you're using the day too, using it for your agenda: Latino pride, anti-alcohol propaganda, getting a byline, whatever.

I'm not wild about any day being used as an excuse for stupid drinking. See the previous post: I like days dedicated to having a good time, while there's beer around, not just pounding down drink after drink with the aim being getting drunk. That's pathetic, and if you can't see the difference, well, come to the Goat Races next year.

As usual, it would be nice to find something in the middle. Binge drinking bad, history lesson-poetry reading-folk dancing boring. How about...we do all the fun stuff AND we have something to drink if we want. And if someone does get drunk and offensive, well, kick them out. Video the drunk and send it to the event organizers, tell them to shape up.

But don't give me this "Cinco is not about beer" crap. Reading the different accounts, it looks like most people don't really know what Cinco is about (which is about par for the course), but look on it as a day to have fun, celebrate their own Latino heritage, or get some good food and hear some music. Is that so bad?

Comments from whiners welcome.

20 comments:

Rustmeister said...

Back when I was stationed in El Paso (virtually all of the 1990's), Cinco de Mayo was celebrated both there and in Juarez, which, last I heard, was still in Mexico

Lew Bryson said...

You gonna try to tell me Juarez is "normal" Mexico?

The celebration of Cinco, I've read, is more a regional thing in Mexico. But I don't really know: all I know is what I read on the 'Net.

Brian said...

Lew,
I actually did celebrate this year with my brother-in-law and his family. It was a great feast of mexican favorites. We celebrated friends and family and isn't that the best kind of holiday?

Brendan said...

I grew up in a latino neighborhood in Omaha, and prior to this recent spate of immigration, Cinco was always a festival day, especially among my co-congregants at Our Lady of Guadalupe. It was definitely not about the beer, but it was one heck of a street carnival, similar to the one the Italians threw for Santa Lucia. I didn't notice too many frat boys there.

Lew Bryson said...

Those two sound great to me. I wonder how much frat boy stuff really goes on, and how much of it is just a chance for New Drys to mouth off about brewery sponsorships?

Rob Gorczyca said...

I'll drink your share of beer then today.
It's nice to have little traditions where you can get together with friends to knock back a few pints and eat some good food. Do most (any) of us care that there's some meaning behind this holiday? Not really.

Andy Crouch said...

Still not quite sure what your point is or why you're in lukewarm support of Cinco (even after reading the bold face print a few times), but regardless, count me as a whiner I suppose. Dumb hijacking of a holiday in America.

http://www.beerscribe.com/2008/03/09/everyone-is-unfortunately-irish-on-st-patricks-day/

and my column in this month's BeerAdvocate Mag.

Lew Bryson said...

Whiner, hand-wringer, whatever. My point is that the issue of "holiday hijacking" is not, I think, as important as stamping out rampant drunkenness. I don't take Diageo's St. Pat's day campaign in the least bit seriously. I'm just asking for some room in the middle.

Alexander D. Mitchell IV said...

I apparently accidentally celebrated Cinco de Mayo by eating a burrito in a Taco Bell today. Forgot about the date until I read the paper.

And the only beer I had was a German hefeweizen that came out of the cooler of a now-abuilding brewery I was in today--about the only beer on the premises they had of any sort! Okay, not true, I'm drinking a Dominion Millennium as I type.

Steven said...

Went home last night and made guacamole (first try on my own, not bad), started the onions and beef sautéing for tacos for my GF and me -- took a slug of my Oberon and remembered Lou's rant here -- damn. I should have picked up some Bohemia on the way home and guzzled the sixer!

Guess I just can't feel the true Cinco meaning. Guess I'll stick to Guinness or Murphy's in March. ;-)

Stephen Beaumont said...

Don't you think you're being a bit harsh, Lew? I know plenty of Irish who bemoan what St. Patrick's Day has become, and more than a few Christians who regret the commercialization of Christmas. All Professor Leyva is saying, by my reading, is let's get back to the heart and soul of the occasion, rather than drowning it in tequila shots and flavourless beer.

Lew Bryson said...

Harsh? I don't think so. If you want to go back to the heart and soul of the celebration of Cinco de Mayo...it would be small, it would be in a limited part of the Latino community: it remains a regional celebration in Mexico.

The whole beer connection started when La Rasa essentially parked their broke-down Cinco de Mayo truck outside Coors headquarters, made a deal to kill the Chicano boycott of Coors, and tossed Coors the keys to the truck: "Here, you fix the truck, and we'll let you drive it." As happened with other big beer sponsorships, the pay-off was so good that the other brewers got into the act, and the pay-off was so good that other "festivals" lined up to get their share of the beer bucks. And now that beer money has made "Cinco de Mayo" a household word...suddenly it's not good enough. Well, dance with them what brought you, I say.

What I'm really saying here is that I'm not down with EITHER side. I don't want mass drunkenness on Cinco, any more than it's a good thing on St. Pat's, Fat Tuesday, New Year's Eve, etc. But the idea that events have to be alcohol-free bugs me too, as does seeing New Drys jumping on cultural bandwagons to pound their drums in the name of heritage.

The booze industry has made a mess of drinking culture in the U.S., I think we can agree on that; you may even agree that Canadian drinking culture could use some work, don't know. I'd like to see us somehow move away from the mass drinking 'holidays' towards a better model. Oktoberfest might work: people get happy, but not ugly. (At least, the Germans don't, the tourists tend to bring their drinking habits with them.)

I'm very disturbed about what St. Pat's has become, and I'm not even Irish. I'm disturbed as a moderate drinker. It's reached the point where I usually stay home on St. Pat's. Too bad. It used to be fun.

Stephen Beaumont said...

I agree, Lew, which is why I think you're being a bit harsh. I don't read Professor Leyva as saying that she wants the celebration to be dry, just that she'd like to see it as less of an excuse for corporations to promote "binge drinking, partying and food." True, in her second paragraph she bemoans "a beer bottle with "Cinco de Mayo" emblazoned across it," but in the next 'graph she takes issue with a "Cinco de Mayo sombrero cake."

In other words, I don't believe she's anti-alcohol, just anti-mass commercialization, as a Christian might be at Christmas time.

Lew Bryson said...

Hrrrmmm... I may plead guilty to using a shotgun where a sniper-shot would have been better. (This is why I like Memorial Day and Veteran's Day: they remain relatively untouched.) The beer bottle image was what did it for me, I guess, but the lecturing tone still bugs me. Only natural, coming from a professor, I guess.

Anonymous said...

Cinco de Mayo is about as made up as a "holiday" can be. This is a regional celebration in Puebla, Mexico. Not all Mexicans celebratre Cinco de Mayo. Here is America? Its pretty much meaningless. The only people who seem to celebrate it here, are illegal aliens who want to show Latino "pride" (guess they got none in Mexico) drunk, college frat boys, and yuppie larve who have jumped on the notion of this being the hispanic version of Saint Patrick's Day. Happy that the Mexicans beat the French, but who here in the US cares or even knows what Cinco de Mayo is. It is a joke to me.

whatsontap said...

Hi Lew... I lived in Mexico in the 1970s and 1980s, have many friends there and return a lot. Cinco de Mayo is not a regional affair. It's a modest, holiday. For weeks before the holiday in towns across the country, school kids practice with drums. There are modest parades and toasts and in bars and restaurants. the usual drink is beer. In the cantinas and clubs it's tequila or mezcal, depending on where you are.

I don't remember it as a big, drunken affair. Its much more restrained.

There's a good reason for Americans here in the north to celebrate. The Mexicans (with our tacit backing) kicked the French off this continent. --william brand - ibabuzz.com/beer

Lew Bryson said...

Dammit, everywhere you turn, people tell you different accounts of what Cinco is like in Mexico!

Can anyone tell me why the Mexican-Americans chose to celebrate Cinco, rather than the Mexican Independence Day?

Steven said...

"...rather than the Mexican Independence Day?"

I see both here in the Chicago area, but as has been said - Independence Day hasn't been marketed as Cinco has, so no real attention other than by Latinos.

Makes you wonder how this all starts, as with St. Pat's -- maybe it's we silly Americans (sorry Stephen) 'Staters looking for any reason for a party? "Hey, it's an Irish holiday, the Irish drink beer and whiskey -- they must party hard!"

I got on someone at RealBeer for promoting an "Oktoberfest in February." Um, wouldn't be an Oktoberfest, would it? The charity behind the fest was a good cause, but the promotion was to "come drink lots of beer." Skewed perspectives.

Alan said...

...kicked the French off this continent...

Quebec? Acadia? St-Pierre et Miquelon even? Maybe we Canadians should take offense. Maybe we are as I see no great move to CdM around here.

Lew Bryson said...

Alan,
Melt that pot. Quebecois are Francophones, not French. Far as I know, St-Pierre et Miquelon is the only French territory left on North America...and that's a stretch (two pimples off the coast?).

But if you want to get pissed, hell, why not? Everyone else is...