For many Americans, Cinco De Mayo is seen as an opportunity to celebrate Mexico as they perceive it, with surface-level aspects of Mexican culture that they tend to see most often publicized in the media stealing most of the show. This celebration may manifest itself through indulgence in tacos, tequila, and (especially for partygoers who are especially committed to stereotype) maybe even the occasional plastic sombrero courtesy of Party City. This Cinco De Mayo, however, lacks the usual historically-oblivious levity as the ongoing targeting of the Mexican-American community by immigration officials under the authority of the Trump administration weighs heavily on much of the public’s subconscious.
This Cinco De Mayo, however, lacks the usual historically-oblivious levity as the ongoing targeting of the Mexican-American community by immigration officials under the authority of the Trump administration weighs heavily on much of the public’s subconscious. According to a report featured on the Hill, Donald Trump is opting not to host a Cinco De Mayo celebration at the White House this year, unprecedentedly (though not surprisingly) breaking 16 years of nonpartisan presidential tradition in doing so.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 5, 2016
The dismissal of the tradition does seem to be a direct reflection of Trump’s strict stance on immigration, which has now grown to an actively enforced crackdown. This indirect acknowledgment of tensions is a far cry from the 74-year-old’s controversial tweet commemorating Cinco De Mayo last year, despite his anti-immigration policies remaining consistent throughout.
Luckily, just because the president is forgoing the chance to honor the nation’s large Mexican-American community does not mean that you have to as well. The politically-charged atmosphere may distinguish this Cinco De Mayo from past holidays, but whose to say that must dampen the enthusiasm of the event? There is no better way to make something positive of the politically-charged atmosphere than by celebrating Cinco De Mayo through consciousness, solidarity, and proactive generosity. Not to mention, it will be nice to know what you’re actually celebrating for once.
Learn About The History Of Cinco De Mayo
Since you are presumably reading this article on the Internet, this part should be pretty easy. You are just one Google search away from enlightenment. That being said, I would be happy to fill you in on some of the basics for the sake of efficiency.
Annual Cinco De Mayo celebrations originally became a tradition as a means of commemorating the eponymous day in 1862 when the Mexican army defeated the vastly more advantaged French forces at the Battle of Puebla. Contrary to popular belief, this did not constitute a Mexican independence day, but the underdog triumph did significantly boost morale and imprint itself in history as a symbol of Mexico’s spirit. Surprisingly, Cinco De Mayo is not a widely practiced holiday in Mexico, making acknowledging and appreciating the Mexican-American community that keeps the tradition alive all the more vital on this day.
Ditch The Inauthentic Food (And Costumes)
After all, what’s the point of celebrating the spirit of Mexico with anything other than genuine Mexican accessories? This one is pretty much just common sense. In Mexican-American communities, food is used as the centerpiece for bonding, learning, and collaborating, so conduct a search of your local restaurants and bars and don’t settle for anything less than the real deal. Seeking out authenticity contributes money towards Mexican-American-owned small businesses (I’m sure Chipotle will manage the loss), provides you with a fantastic meal, and is likely to highlight the perfect hotspot for soaking in the true livelihood and legacy of Cinco De Mayo all while sharing the day directly with the community from which it originates.
To take it one step further, make an effort to spend money at Mexican-American-owned businesses as exclusively as possible throughout the day (or month, or year). No need to waste your pocket change on some tacky, caricature-ish costume that you will only wear once and that doesn’t even genuinely represent either American or Mexican culture when you can instead use it to buy the everyday products that you might actually need from business owners within the Mexican-American community. For all parties involved, this is a much more beneficial approach.
Do Your Part To Protect The Community
A conscious, politically-charged Cinco De Mayo such as this one is best balanced by conscious political actions, however small they may be. The purpose of the holiday is a recognition of what makes Mexican culture unique and admirable, so there is no better observance of this philosophy than utilizing your civic responsibilities to help ensure that culture isn’t alienated or targeted.
Donate your money or time to charities such as Organized Communities Against Deportation, The Detention Watch Network, or any of the many others that work to help immigrants stay secure in our increasingly threatening political climate. Call or write your representatives in the House and the Senate and tell them how you feel about the proposed Mexican border wall, the ordered spike in deportations, and the threats of cutting federal funding to sanctuary cities. If there are any nearby town hall meetings, discussions, or demonstrations being held related to the threats Mexican-American individuals face, feel free to get involved.
Above all else, do your best to go above and being to proactively honor, engage, and preserve the culture of Mexican-American communities this Cinco De Mayo.
[Featured Image by Bob Kupbens/Getty Images]