Cinco De Mayo: A Guide to Improving a Broken Holiday

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Cinco de Mayo is broken. It's marketed as a holiday that revolves around … well, around drinking. But also ostensibly around some battle or mild disagreement or something in Mexico. Given that, we have some suggestions for how to fix all the misunderstanding and misguided pandering surrounding this alcohol-soaked, vomit-spattered, novelty hat-adorned holiday:

Get to Know It

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Cinco de Mayo has always had its roots firmly planted in the U.S. It does indeed mark Mexico's victory over the French in the Battle of Puebla (and remains a regional holiday in that part of Mexico). But many who have studied Latino culture in the U.S.—including demographer, epidemiologist, and UCLA professor David Hayes-Bautista, who wrote a book about the holiday—maintain that it was first celebrated by Mexicans living in California during the American Civil War.

Hayes-Bautista pinpoints the holiday's origins to a small town in California's Central Valley—Columbia—that sprouted during the Gold Rush, noting that the "vast majority of Latinos in California saw the battles against the Confederacy in the U.S. and against French interventionist forces in Mexico as twin struggles for freedom and democracy."


Question It

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I'm inclined to think that any opportunity to drink is a good one: birthdays, religious holidays, holidays created by greeting card companies, Black Masses, noon, etc. But there's something off about celebrating Mexican culture, at least superficially, by drinking ourselves into a coma as beer companies laugh and laugh all the way to the liver depository. Ditto for celebrating the Irish by drunkenly slamming, head-first, into the bar at O'BeerCompany McDollarSign's.

Also, I mean. This.

Revamp It

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Celebrate freedom! Celebrate Latinos in the U.S.! Especially me! (Worth a shot!)

But really: Instead of honoring (?) a Mexican battle you—let's be real—don't really know or care much about, why not use this date at the perfect opportunity to celebrate Latinos' (and particularly Mexican-Americans') contributions to the U.S.? Raise a glass of agua fresca (or, fine, your favorite mezcal-based concoction) to, say….


Dolores del Rio (actress who played an influential role in the Golden Age of Mexican and Hollywood movies)

Cesar Chavez (civil rights activist and founder of the co-founded the National Farm Workers Association along with…)


Dolores Huerta (…who is also a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom)

Ellen Ochoa (former astronaut and the first Latina in space)

Ricardo Montalbán (iconic actor whose career spanned seven decades, and who was also a noted Corinthian leather enthusiast.)


Selena (Tejana singer, named "Best selling Latin artist of the decade" by Billboard before her untimely death)

Cherríe Lawrence Moraga (author and feminist activist who co-founded Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press, the first publisher dedicated to the works of WOC)


Anna Maria Chávez (first, and current, Latina head of the Girl Scouts of the U.S.A.)

Jorge Ramos (We think you might have heard of him around these parts.)

And, most importantly….

Dress Small Dogs as Piñatas

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Here is a handy tutorial on how to create the perfect costume for a slightly bewildered pug.

And since we're on this topic, check out:

PSA: What Cinco de Mayo is NOT

Cinco de Mayo: The Battle of Puebla VS the Bottle of Tequila

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