We're entering the Cinco de Mayo week, a big, colorful and traditional celebration by Hispanic Americans. I emailed a friend I came to know through the Japan Society of Tijuana & San Diego, to find out if she knows of any plans scheduled this year in Tijuana. She responded to me from Chicago, where she is presently studying, but she sounded unenthusiastic. She wrote to me that May 5 is not even a Mexican National Holiday and why do I bother. I wondered if I have held some misconceptions. I have seen and heard a lot about Cinco de Mayo celebrations in Los Angeles, San Antonio, San Diego, San Ysidoro and Tijuana so I felt somewhat bewildered with what she said. I checked my Tijuana paper clippings. Years ago, Tijuana had 2 hour parades on Calle Benito Juares.
I reread Mexican history. Father Miguel Hidalgo revolted against Spain in 1810 and this Independence War lasted until 1821. They gained Independence, but with heavy financial burden, particularly to France. Napoleon III, exasperated on debt collection, sent 6,500 soldiers to Mexico. Mexico countered the French with 4,500 militia lead by General Ignacio Zaragoza (born in Texas). The victor of the initial battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862 was Mexico, an unlikely one-time victory. France gained control of Mexico eventually and had a Hapsburg prince Maximilian govern Mexico until 1867. Thus, May 5 became a symbol of patriotism and anti-imperialism from the admiration of neighboring Americans, compared to the low-key Mexican modesty.
I read the first celebration of Cinco de Mayo was held in Southern California. It was a show of solidarity by Mexicans against French rule. It continued to be celebrated and by 1930, it was seen as an opportunity to celebrate Mexican identity and build community solidarity. Later, Mexican-American youths appropriated the holiday and it gained a bi-national flavor. Also, it was a way to build Mexican-American pride. Corporate sponsors have stepped in recently and the celebrations have taken on a more commercial flavor these days.
In Old Town, San Diego, my second hometown, Aztec warriors, charros playing quoits, whirling dancers, Jalisco hat dances all ran like insatiable kaleidoscopic sights. And, yes, last but not least, my favorite Mexican dishes and Margaritas!