Allison Milton/The AS Review

For some, Cinco de Mayo represents a night of partying complete with party hats, tequila and maybe even a piñata. But for others, Cinco de Mayo represents a day of cultural significance.

Contrary to popular belief, May 5 is not Mexico’s independence day. On May 5, 1862, Mexico fought and won the Battle of Puebla against the French, who had attacked Mexico because of debts it owed to France. But, unlike Mexico’s independence day, which falls on September 16, Cinco de Mayo is not as celebrated in Mexico as it is in the U.S.
Senior Instructor Amy Carbajal, who teaches Spanish at Western and discusses Cinco de Mayo in her classes, said that the holiday is a day of celebrating cultural identification of all Hispanics in the U.S.

“If you look at the celebration among the Hispanics in the U.S., it has become a day of community,” she said. “It’s not that they’re celebrating the battle, they’re celebrating the day.”

While Cinco de Mayo may be a cultural holiday, the way it is celebrated here is not in line with its meaning.

Western junior Andrea Tafoya relates the Americanization of Cinco de Mayo to that of St. Patrick’s Day. Irish or not, St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated by many people in America. While some celebrate the day because of their Irish heritage, others use this holiday as an excuse to party. But, instead of drinking green beer and wearing a leprechaun hat, put on a sombrero and sip some tequila and you’ve got yourself the American version of Cinco de Mayo.

Tafoya is one of two representatives for the Pacific Northwest region of El Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano/a de Aztlán (MEChA), an AS club made up of students from Chicano or Latino communities.

Tafoya said her family does not celebrate the holiday, although high school assemblies and small church celebrations were present in her community.

And although a huge celebration is rarely in store for those represented by the holiday, there are some who take it a little overboard. The people who profit most from the holiday are the beer companies, she said.

“Why not have another day to sell your alcohol?” Tafoya said.  “It gives people the excuse to go drinking, especially at the college scene. A lot of people are going to be like ‘yeah let’s go drink tequila, it’s Cinco de Mayo.’”

Tafoya said Mexicans in the States probably celebrate Cinco de Mayo a little more than those in Mexico because it is one of the only holidays that is celebrated in America that pertains to their culture. Even though some people may celebrate it for the wrong reasons, it might be still important for them to acknowledge the significance that it has in America, she said.

For members of MEChA and other Hispanic members of the community, May 5 will be a day of remembering cultural heritage. Tafoya said MEChA is going to take it a step further and use the holiday as a chance to fight the legislation recently passed in Arizona.

Although they are unsure of their plans, MEChA will be participating in a demonstration against the SB1070 bill. The governor of Arizona signed a bill on Friday, April 23 that has many, including Tafoya, worried about racial profiling and discrimination against Hispanics.

It is probably inevitable that when the calendar hits May 5, the bottles of tequila will make their way off of store shelves, parties will occur and Mexican stereotypes may be present. But what is really important is when this day comes, thought is given to what you’re celebrating. Cheers.