By Michelle Maldonado
What do you think of when you hear "Cinco de Mayo"? The Mexican version of the Fourth of July? Large sombreros with fake mustaches? Chips and salsa or neon yellow cheese and nachos? Maybe even tequila?
There's a lot more behind the story of Cinco de Mayo.
Cinco de Mayo is a holiday first celebrated in Puebla, Mexico. It commemorates the date when Mexico’s army won the Battle of Puebla over France in 1862. Cinco de Mayo is actually a relatively minor holiday in Mexico. It is celebrated more in the U.S. than in Mexico. Cinco de Mayo in the United States has long celebrated Mexican culture and heritage in predominantly Mexican-American communities. Some non-Mexican Hispanic communities join the party by celebrating Latin America’s multiculturalism and diversity.
For many years, this celebration has gone “mainstream” into the non-Mexican or Latino population and the results have been more than often offensive. In many ways, Cinco de Mayo in the United States has turned elements of Mexican culture and heritage into a mockery of exaggerated inaccurate stereotypes that sweep up all Latino communities into one pile. Given the current political climate and sentiments toward Mexicans and Latinos, the last few Cinco de Mayo celebrations have been particularly unsavory for some Hispanic communities.
This Cinco de Mayo, instead of “dressing up” as a Mexican and posting on Instagram pictures of “Coronaritas” the size of your head, make it a point throughout the day to pray in your head for Mexico, for the indigenous communities that are suffering, for the folks still dealing with the aftermath of the devastating earthquakes last fall. Pray for those in the midst of poverty. Moreover, pray for the injustices Mexicans, and all Latinos, experience in the U.S. Pray for the kids that are sitting in ICE detention centers. And if you feel like putting action behind those prayers, go for it!
If praying isn’t really your thing, that’s okay. Maybe getting involved is not up your alley either. But just take a moment and think about the fact that a small Mexican Army beat the French soldiers that were occupying their territory. It reminds me of that Bible story about David and Goliath. Mexico at that time owed a lot of money to Europe and the country was not doing well economically. France, being led by Napoleon’s nephew, sent in 6,000 well-equipped troops to Puebla to take control of the land. Mexico’s president, Benito Juarez, was sure France would win. But he still decided to scrounge together an army of 2,000 soldiers. At daybreak on May 5th, the Mexican army began their attack on the French. The French general was not anticipating that this small Mexican army would put up a good fight. By that evening, the French general realized they were losing the fight and withdrew his defeated army. Just like David beat the giant Goliath by slinging a rock at his head, the Mexican army, against all odds, beat the French.
Cinco de Mayo is a day that reminds us that improbable things happen. It reminds us that even underdogs have power. May Cinco de Mayo, the small Mexican army, and the story of David remind you that you can overcome giants, obstacles, and shortcomings that are in your way. Life can feel like an endless battle, but these stories inspire us to keep fighting.
Michelle Maldonado is the Director of Seeker Communications at United Methodist Communications.
[Posted May 4, 2018]