Friday, May 05, 2006


Cinco de Mayo--Who Celebrates?

In light of recent immigrant rallies and anti-immigrant sentiments, it will be interesting how this holiday which is mostly celebrated in the USA rather than in Mexico, where the actual event took place, will fare.

Though our president was pictured in the Washington Post with a mariachi band, how will he kiss up to his Mexican-born sister-in-law and her American/Mexican children, especially the one who gave stump speeches for uncle during the last presidential campaign?

Most know that on this day in Puebla, Mexico the underdog Mexican forces defeated a more established French army which eventually led to the execution of Maximilian the Emperor of Mexico from 1864-1867, as appointed by the French.

The Spanish/Mexican fear of the French has a history that predates Cortes's conquest of Mexico in 1515, mostly due to Spanish-French cousin rivalry due to marriages between the kingdoms. In short, the Spanish feared that the French would eventually enter their claimed territory which is now the USA. The French, of course, entered the continent via Quebec and New Orleans, but the Spanish feared the French would take northern New Spain (now the Greater Southwest) and then southern New Spain (now Mexico); that is why the Spanish established Sante Fe as its northern post in 1610. On the European continent, in the early 1800s, Napoleon invaded Spain and installed his brother on the throne. What is interested is that Napoleon then gave French New Orleans to the Spanish to rule (i.e. the Louisiana territories, centered in New Orleans)--to get it straight New Orleans was first Indian territory, then French, then Spanish but under French rule, then French, and finally sold to the USA by way of President Jefferson). I'll get to all this changing of hands in a few minutes.

So back to Mexico which in 1864 fell into the hands of the French without the Spanish kingdom to help support it. The fear of the French taking Spanish territory(which became Mexican territory in 1810) finally became reality.

The irony of all of this that many Mexicans actually have French ancestry as a result of Maximilian's period of rule or via the expulsion of the Spanish and French from New Orleans as a result of the Louisiana Purchase.

I mention is because those of us who are a melange of cultural backgrounds do what is what one does in order to survive: one takes on loyalty to the power in place, unless it is obvious that the power in place can be toppled. This leads me to the point of ethnicity versus nationality: one's passport/legal status versus what one's cultural or bloodline is, though these days it is difficult to find individuals who do not have some different cultural or ethnic line via a great-great grandfather or mother--one need only search several generations back before one is likely to discover a cross-over in the bloodline or cultural identity.

For many Texans like myself, let's search backwards:
Indian territories--with various native tribes; Spanish territory--with possible Spanish ethnicities as well as possible Moorish or Jewish bloodlines; Mexican territory--with the introduction of Anglo, Irish, Germanic (Bavarian, etc.) groups who were to agree to abandon the enslavement of Africans (illegal in Mexico at this time), were to agree to convert to Catholicism, and who often married into Spanish/Mexican families to acquire land; Texas Republic--with the introduction of various other European groups; and then finally the USA. How does one survive all of these transitions and changes of political power? Quite simple: You go with the flow.

So back to Cinco de Mayo, how do I celebrate?

I can celebrate with a Mexican beer in hand and still say "c'est la vie" and ask for cole slaw with my spicy fajitas to cool the hot tongue.

Great Post, Robert. Gracias.
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