April 30, 2016
By Maria Bastidas
In a few days we will celebrate Cinco de Mayo, a date which immediately brings to mind Mexican food and beer. Since arriving to Atlanta, I have personally witnessed the festivals, restaurant promotions and extensive amount of ads and marketing efforts from businesses, bars and restaurants seeking to take advantage and cash in on this holiday.
Some people think we are celebrating Mexico’s Independence Day, when, in reality, it is a commemoration of the anniversary of the Battle of Puebla, a day in which Mexican liberal forces defeated an occupying French army and its Mexican conservative allies during one of Mexico’s 19th-century civil wars.
In fact, some Mexicans who now reside in the United States did not even celebrate this holiday prior to arriving on the other side of the border. This was the case for José Alamillo, professor of Chicano studies at California State University, Channel Islands. Alamillo came to the U.S. when he was seven and has no memory of this commemoration in his native land.
“The first time I heard about Cinco de Mayo was in elementary school, when the teachers began talking about this holiday and teaching more about Hispanic culture. We [Mexican students] didn’t even know what they were talking about. What we did remember was Independence Day, which is celebrated on Sept. 16,” explained Alamillo.
Cinco de Mayo celebrations began back in the 1930s and 1940s in Corona, a city in the Southern California region, where a big party took place in order to celebrate the lemon harvest. “That was the day of the lemon harvest, and the companies that hired the farm workers sponsored the party in order for the workers to hang out with and get to know the employers,” Alamillo said.
“What is certain is that before, it was a small celebration, and it was not focused on selling beer,” added Alamillo. “Now, instead of Cinco de Mayo, they call it Drinko de Mayo.”
With or without beer, Cinco de Mayo is a date widely recognized in ths country. The United States Postal Service issued a Cinco de Mayo stamp featuring two folkloric dancers. And In 2005, Congress passed a resolution making Cinco de Mayo an official national holiday to celebrate Mexican-American heritage.
Although the holiday has changed over the years, Cinco de Mayo also offers an opportunity for businesses that wish to connect with the Hispanic market. During that time, hundreds of thousands of Latinos participate in cultural festivals featuring music and gastronomic offerings of their native lands.
“If you play your cards right, and imbue your ads and/or promotions with the true meaning of Cinco de Mayo, you have a greater chance to reach and connect with the U.S. Latino market. It will definitely give you an edge,” said Havi Goffan, president and CEO of Mercado Target Latino.
Familiarizing ourselves with the real meaning of this holiday allows us to commemorate the true history behind the celebration, as well as the integration of our communities. Cheers!