Cinco de Mayo or 'Drinko de Mayo.' Some Mexicans in CT want to reclaim this day of memorial
Cinco de Mayo is often celebrated in the U.S. as a day for drinks, but some Mexican-Americans strive to preserve its original cultural significance.
Juan Coronado is a professor of Latin-American studies and coordinator of Latino and Puerto Rican studies at CCSU. Coronado grew up in Edinburg, Texas, at the U.S.-Mexican border. He says Cinco de Mayo is a day of memorial where people remember the lives of those who fought for freedom.
He says the day commemorates the battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862, when Mexico was defending itself against a French invasion under Napoleon III.
"Mexico was seen as the underdog in this battle,” Coronado said. “France is a world power during this time, and the Mexicans are outnumbered and outgunned. Yet, they were able to stand up and defeat the French in this battle.
"When Mexicans started migrating to places like the Midwest or the Northeast, a strong wake of keeping the culture [embraced] these major holidays," Coronado said. "It was a strong way of enforcing the culture you have left behind."
Coronado says alcohol advertisements give the wrong impression of Mexicans and people often confuse Cinco de Mayo for Mexican Independence Day.
The Enfield-based cultural group, Grupo Mexico-Americano Connecticut, agrees with Coronado. For the last seven years, they've celebrated and preformed Mexican culture events in Connecticut. Amilcar Córdova, one of the group members, says it's unfortunate that celebrations in the U.S. have been reduced to simply a day to drink.
"Yes, it is some appropriation for the sake of merchandising and selling," Amilcar said. "Especially for drinks like Corona, when they don't even know what it is about."
A new wave of Mexican immigration in recent years inspired the group to educate the newer generations of Mexican-Americans about their culture.
"We teach them how to dance the Mexican way, like danzas regionales (regional dances)," Amilcar said. "We have been working with children from three up to 12 years old."
Coronado hopes all people enjoy Cinco de Mayo but respect the culture and the original meaning of the Mexican holiday.
"Enjoy yourselves, enjoy the holiday, but the day is about celebrating the underdog's victory," Coronado said. "And having that spirit that no matter what's ahead of you, no matter how difficult the challenge is, if you put your heart and preparation, there's a way to succeed.”