Cinco de Mayo and Latino Visibility

One of the most pressing issues facing Latinos in the United States is representation. The experiences, histories, and present-day struggles of Latinos simply do not find their way into the U.S. line of sight in any meaningful way. To somebody on the “outside” this might seems strange. After all, doesn’t everybody know about J-Lo and Salma Hayek? Aren’t we obsessed with the political issue of immigration? Isn’t salsa the number 1 condiment in the nation? And isn’t everybody aware that today is Cinco de Mayo?

The skewed way our Latino experiences in the U.S. are incorporated into the mainstream are troubling. Cinco de Mayo is a case in point. Today is the anniversary of the Battle of Puebla (1862), when Mexico successfully battled against the French imperialist army within its own national borders. This historic day in the life of the Mexican nation–a nation which had been severely compromised by the loss of almost half its territory to the equally imperialist United States in 1848–is a day of celebration of independence and freedom from foreign control. But on this side of the border, it is a day to get drunk at during happy hour at your local Mexican restaurant.

Cinco de Mayo is an advertising bonaza, when corporations use Mexican/Latin themes to sell beer, food, and other items, most of which are geared toward some kind of festive debauchery. Other images you will see today commemorate the day with some trite representation of Mexican culture, only to de-politicize and de-historicize the day in general.

In most cases, these images and representations aren’t the problem in and of themselves. I’ve got nothing against a cold beer, just as I have nothing against George Lopez and Carlos Mencia. The problem is when these precious few become fully representative of Latino life and history. The problem is when these few representations define an entire people for the mainstream, white U.S. populace because, simply, they have no other images to deepen their understanding.

Cinco de Mayo is a day of celebration in Mexico. For Latinos in the U.S., it should be a day of careful thought.

One thought on “Cinco de Mayo and Latino Visibility

  1. Hey! You wanna know what else goes great with Cinco de Mayo besides chips and salsa?? Latin Music!The best I can suggest goes by the name of Trio Caliente.

    Their music is festive and full of energy. If you’re having any celebrations today bump their single “Baila Me”
    HAPPY Cinco de Mayo!!!!!!

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