On May 5, 1862, more than 6,000 French soldiers faced off against 2,000 Mexican soldiers at the First Battle of Puebla . Against all odds, Mexico won. And though Mexican independence would not be secured until five years later, “Cinco de Mayo” became a rallying cry for those on the frontlines.
Unfortunately, all vestiges of that bit of Mexican history seem to be removed from modern-day celebrations.
Only 22% of Americans know what the holiday is actually about. The other 78% content themselves with all-you-can-eat burritos and 2-for-1 margaritas while calling it a “celebration.”
Never mind, of course, that neither burritos nor margaritas are a part of authentic Mexican cuisine . The 5th of May isn’t even celebrated as a legal holiday in Mexico, though it is commemorated in a few small regions of the country.
In the United States, though, we celebrate Cinco de Mayo for another reason: a wildly-successful marketing campaign that began in the 1980s.
In the 1930s, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt enacted the Good Neighbor Policy. This cultural outreach program aimed for better relations between the USA and Latin American countries. Cinco de Mayo celebrations were seen as a “bridge-builder” back then. What’s more, up until the 1960s, the 5th of May involved culturally accurate depictions of the battle.
That all changed in the 1980s thanks to American capitalism. Beer companies — especially Corona beer — wanted to reach the growing Latinx population.
They made a series of well-placed advertisements that equated Mexican culture with Mexican beer . This turned Cinco de Mayo from a cultural celebration to a capitalist one, much like Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas have become today.
But that’s nothing compared to how the MAGA crowd seems hilariously out of touch with both its cultural roots and capitalist exploitation.
By now, it’s pretty clear that the so-called “MAGA crowd” — those devoted to incumbent President Donald Trump, who seem to embrace the worst of his qualities — doesn’t like Mexicans.
But that doesn’t stop them from claiming that they have the right to eat tacos on the 5th of May to “own the libs.”
They seem to subscribe to the theory that their ignorance is just as important as others’ intelligence, and any attempts to correct their ignorance is inherently “racist.”
And when they’re not trying to co-opt Cinco de Mayo into a MAGA rallying cry , they seem to only succeed in proving that Corona’s marketing campaign from the 1980s was their most successful to date.
Donald Trump is a man that supports building a wall to keep Mexicans out of the United States. He supports a migrant separation policy that separates children from their parents and puts them in cages. He has dehumanized Mexicans by calling them “animals. ” He has implied that Mexicans are nothing more than “drug dealers, criminals, [and] rapists. ”
He was, and remains, unapologetic about it all. And his supporters — his so-called MAGA cult — are okay with this.
And, in their tweets about Cinco de Mayo, they have demonstrated that they are just as ignorant as he is.