At the very least, take a few minutes to learn the history of Cinco de Mayo before you squeeze that lime into your Corona. No, it’s not Mexican Independence Day (Grito de Delores)—that’s September 16. It’s actually a day in remembrance of the Battle of Puebla in 1862, in which the Mexican Army successfully defended itself against the French. In the 1950s, Chicano activists turned Cinco de Mayo into a commemorative holiday used to educate Mexican Americans about their cultural heritage. Then, much like St. Patrick’s Day, it transformed over the years into an excuse to party, largely thanks to big beer corporations.
But don’t fret, it’s okay to get down on Cinco de Mayo no matter who you are. After all, the other goal of the holiday is to educate non-Chicano people on Mexican culture. Here are some positive things you can do today to celebrate:
- Read up on some Mexican history, learn about prominent Mexican Americans, or read some classic Mexican literature while you sip on that margarita.
- Get Mexican food at an authentic, non-chain Mexican restaurant. Chipotle is yummy, but it’s not really Mexican food. Support the real thing at your favorite local spot.
- Make your own Mexican food at home instead using some authentic recipes.
- While you cook and party, listen to some traditional Mexican music. Search for Ranchera, Norteño, Grupero, Tejano, and of course, don’t forget Mariachi. While not quite as traditional, I’ll be listening to a lot of the one and only Selena.
- Take a moment to learn about organizations that work for immigrant rights and justice, like the American Civil Liberties Union, Border Angels, and the League of United Latin American Citizens.
As you do tequila shots, knock back cervezas, and consume copious amounts of guacamole, here are a few suggestions from MEChA de Brown to keep in mind:
- Don’t wear giant fake mustaches, sombreros, or serapes, especially if they’re the kind acquired from party stores. You don’t need those to have a good time, and those perpetuate offensive stereotypes.
- Don’t perpetuate harmful stereotypes, do silly, disrespectful voices, or run around shouting “Cinco de Drinko!” Come on, now.
- Hold your friends accountable as you party. If someone does something that isn’t cool, stand up for what you believe is right. And if someone calls you out for doing something a little borderline, be respectful and understanding.
Cinco de Mayo is a wonderful day that can be enjoyed by all. Just give it the attention it deserves if you want to celebrate, and avoid tactless behavior as best you can.