Op Ed

Why I Hate Cinco de Mayo

Cinco de Mayo commemorates the battle of Puebla where the Mexican army defeated the French. It is barely celebrated in Mexico and I hate it; I hate it with a passion and I get irrationally angry when I see what a huge deal it is made out to be here in the U.S.

I am not of Mexican descent; but I have many ties to the country and very strong feeling about it and its history. I teach in a bilingual classroom and every year at least 90% of my students are Mexican or Mexican American (with a few Puerto Ricans, Venezuelans, and Hondurans thrown into the mix), and my teaching assistant is Mexican. Therefore every year since I have started teaching we have a big celebration for September 16th, Mexican Independence Day, which is a HUGE celebration in Mexico proper and enclaves of Mexicans and Mexican Americans here in the United States. We also celebrate any other independence days of my students’ home countries; conveniently enough, many Latin American countries celebrate their independence during the same week in September, which is also the first week of Hispanic Heritage Month.

A flan with icing in the shape of the Mexican flag and wording "Viva México."
This year we had flan to celebrate Mexican Independence Day.
A hallway outside of a bilingual classroom, celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month.  There are student made flags of Mexico and Venezuela.
We decorated our hallway for Hispanic Heritage Month. Each child made the flag of his or her heritage country. We even made a Peruvian flag for the classroom guinea pigs.

Some people in the school do not like that we celebrate so much during this time, or that we focus on Mexico. Other people harangue the bilingual program in general all year and think we should only be speaking in English. They want to Americanize the students as much as possible.

All this brings me to why I hate Cinco de Mayo.

All of a sudden, come May 5th, it’s cool to speak Spanish. It’s cool to make Mexican flags and bring in Mexican food to the classroom.

Outside of school, the same morning radio programs who are bitching about people not being able to speak English on May 4th are encouraging callers to speak Spanish on May 5th. The same Facebook friends who post on their feeds about sending people back to Mexico the other 364 days of the year, are having huge parties on May 5th.

CINCO DE MAYO IS BARELY EVEN CELEBRATED IN MEXICO. So basically, it’s a holiday when Americans can drink cerveza and eat tacos without actually acknowledging anything too Mexican.

And I know, come May 6th, the old attitudes will return. My students will again be frowned upon for celebrating their heritage and their language.

34 replies on “Why I Hate Cinco de Mayo”

I’ll admit I know little about Cinco de Mayo aside from that I mark it on the calendar as a day to not go to the Mexican restaurants I like as they’ll be overwhelmed with drunk people going “AREBA” or whatnot.

However, I do know it’s not Mexico’s independence day.  And as such, I tend to correct people with this joke.

“Most people don’t know that back in 1912, Hellman’s mayonnaise was manufactured in England. In fact, the Titanic was carrying 12,000 jars of the condiment scheduled for delivery in Vera Cruz, Mexico, which was to be the next port of call for the great ship after its stop in New York.

This would have been the largest single shipment of mayonnaise ever delievered to Mexico. But as we know, the great ship did not make it to New York. The ship hit an iceberg and sank, and the cargo was forever lost.

The people of Mexico, who were crazy about mayonnaise, and were eagerly awaiting its delivery, were disconsolate at the loss. Their anguish was so great, that they declared a National Day of Mourning, which they still observe to this day.

The National Day of Mourning occurs each year on May 5th and is known, of course, as Sinko de Mayo.”

One of my Mexican friends used to call it Cinco de Drinko. I thought that was rather appropriate since it’s celebrated only to help the tequila industry get a head start on Memorial Day weekend. It does irritate me that people think it’s Mexican Independence Day, and I always correct them, but it really is just a way for corporations to start advertising for the summer partying three weeks earlier than they use to. It has nothing to do with inclusion and never really has.

I would maybe be down with the celebration of cinco de mayo if we as an American culture acknowledged other holidays (not just the funsies ones like dia de muertos), but also acknowledged how important Mexico is, especially ah-hem, considering many places like Texas and Arizona are originally part of Mexico.  I do think it is cool that your students are using cinco de mayo as a way too celebrate their hispanic heritage, but why not more recognition of Latin history and heritage? Just not just all crammed into one day that isnt even really a holiday, much less an all inclusive latin holiday, huh US?. Considering that the US is made up of a huge amount of latin/hispanic folks, its like, jesus, throw us a bone.

How about Dia de Trabajo? Day of the Virgin? The Defense of Vera Cruz? meh?

Also, icing on flan breaks my heart. Good flan is too divine a substance for such.

Also, Mona, I am happier than a clam who escaped a clam bake you are writing here again!

Considering I have 3 Guadalupes in a class of 10, you can bet we celebrate December 12th (in a non-religious way, of course).

I also like to celebrate May 1st, International Women’s Day, el Dia de los Reyes, and the Day of the Child- just to name a few, in addition to “American” holidays.

(We only mention Columbus day in passing- if we talk about it at all it’s from the standpoint of el Dia de la Raza.  Actually, education has come pretty far in response to Columbus Day.  We aren’t even expected to focus on it, and we can tell “the real story” about it.)

And your last comment makes me feel all warm and squishy.

The flan looks delightful though.

I’m completely ignorant about Cinco de Mayo, what it entails etcetera, but I recognize this ‘ One Day Of [..]’  behaviour which is so silly and so very much permitted and cherished by society. You’re a pessimist if you point it out, or not nationalistic/supportive enough. It’s so ..absurd.

OK, I admit it… this is one unenlightened white girl who loves Cinco de Mayo. I lived in SoCal so long that it all just rubbed off on me. I’ll use any excuse to go out for Mexican food. If there are mariachis playing, they make me smile and wish I were on Olivera Street. (Or, even better, south of the border.) I love the culture, I love the music, I love the food. I wish I remembered my Spanish, but it flew out of my head shortly after I left Spanish class, oh, so many years ago. I don’t drink, so there’s no drunkenness for me, just a day of honoring friends to the south and thanking them for helping us to win a battle long, long ago.

No. Thus exposing my ignorance. But, I’d love to learn more. It seems only right that we know more about our neighbors. Since moving closer to Canada, I’m learning more about their holidays. I think it’s time that we embrace and celebrate one another’s heritage and history. We obviously can’t celebrate every global holiday. It would get a little intense. But we should certainly do a better job of honoring and respecting one another.

Give it some time and I’m sure American college students will come up with a was to bastardize Mexican Independence Day into a day to drink too.  I completely understand why you hate it.  If I end up going out on Cinco de Mayo, and I might but only cause it falls on a Saturday this year , I will be spending it in an Irish pub.  My friends and I went out for Mexican on St. Patrick’s Day since we wanted to go out but didn’t want to deal with any St. Patty’s day crap.

I think Cinco de Mayo in the U.S. is just a weird displacement of Beltane/May Day. Europeans have such a long tradition of going a little nuts and partying at this time that maybe it’s burned into our collective unconscious or something, but in the U.S. we have somehow glommed onto Cinco de Mayo as the occasion.

We just need to encourage people to get wasted in honor of May Day instead of May 5th.

And then we need to celebrate Mexico’s Independence Day, right? because that would actually be cool and educational, I think.

I will get on that straightaway.

I have so many issues with all of the Cinco de Mayo bullshit people try to sell you. Stop appropriating my culture assholes! I dreaded the day every year because people always tried to tell me that it was Mexico’s Independence Day. Um, no. You don’t tell the mexican when her own country’s Independence  day is. I always had to explain that no, actually Mexican Independence Day is September 16, which is coincidentally my birthday, so yea, I know about it a bit. The other reason being all the racist bullshit people would spout at me every May 5th. Like why wasn’t I wearing a sombrero and serape. Or if all my family got drunk that day. Ugh. I’m starting to fume just remembering.

Anyway, I think it’s great that you celebrate your kids’ cultures like that. Good for you! <3

It was a blessing. I always had great birthdays when I lived in Mexico. When I went to celebrate my quinces, I felt special because all the shops were only open for me to get my stuff. And here in NY it’s just like any other day so not a problem. The only problem with my birthday was it was always so early in the school year that no one ever cared about it like they did for the later birthdays. Everyone was always still awkwardly getting used to each other to make too much of a big deal about it.

Good to know about the 16th of December! My daughter’s attending an “international magnet school” this year, where they all get Spanish class 2x per week, and there’s a lot of exploration of other cultures. They have a huge ESL population, most of whom speak Spanish as their first language. I’ll be curious to see what the school does that first week in May. I don’t recall anything being mentioned that week in September, but we were brand new to the school at that time.

Cinco de Mayo does sound a lot like St. Patrick’s Day. I guess, if nothing else, it teaches the masses what the flag of Mexico looks like. And maybe where Mexico is on a map. Maybe.

I’m with you. I never quite got why we made such a big deal about it in Spanish class either. A friend of mine who is Mexican once asked me on the day if I was doing anything, and I said, “You mean, am I using this day as an excuse to drink more? No, not really.” And he agreed that, no, it’s not really a “real” holiday. I mean, at least people in Ireland actually celebrate St Patrick’s Day.

I’m really not 100% sure, except to say that I saw photos of my Irish friends’ kids (living in Ireland) wearing green and with “Happy St Patrick’s Day!” on FB  this year. But you could be right in that it’s more subdued — I guess my point was that perhaps more people in Ireland celebrate St. Patrick’s Day or at least find it somewhat significant than Mexican people do with Cinco de Mayo.


BUT! I’m a very-mixed-heritage white girl living in Montana who is speaking from secondhand information, so don’t quote me. ;)

I live in Ireland and have been here for the last three St. Paddy’s Days. It is DEFINITELY a big deal in Ireland, the equivalent of 4th of July for Americans. (Though I have been told that a lot of the Irish think it’s funny that the NY parade has usually been bigger than the Dublin one! But especially this year the Dublin parade was massive.) It seems like everyone will wear green and white and orange (but especially green and white). And drinking IS a big part of the day, especially for younger people. I think the older Irish (post-mid-20’s) stay out of the City Centre that day because it’s filled with way too drunk Irish teenagers and it’s just not pleasant. But my roommates and I made lots of food and got drunk in the day and then went out to a club at night. There were even fireworks, though I didn’t get to see them. But yes, Paddy’s Day is very big in Ireland! It’s Ireland Culture and History and Pride (and Guinness) Day.

We do – it’s usually a three-day festival now, and lots of the bigger rural towns will have their own parade.

We do laugh a bit at the Americans going over-the-top about it, dying things green etc., and the equation of Irish = getting drunk, just like we laugh a bit at Americans saying “I’m Irish!”. No, dear. You have Irish heritage, and that’s lovely, but you’re not Irish.

To be fair, there are plenty of Americans who laugh at other Americans who do this too. I can remember that right after I switched schools the kids at the new school wanted to know “Where I was from?” I learned through a process of trial and error that the answer was not the location of my house, or the last school I had attended, but the nationality of my ancestors. And man did they get a little boggle eyed when I had to sit and think before listing off six or seven different countries and concluding with, “Probably. We didn’t keep very good family records.” Most of them were from families that had only immigrated a few generations back from either Poland or Italy. They were honestly waiting for me to say I was either Polish or Italian, with Irish being an outside chance.

Ugh, I don’t like Cinco de Mayo either.  It doesn’t seem appropriate to celebrate it in the U.S. as we annexed and occupied much of northern Mexico, much like the French did.  And yeah, it’s culturally appropriated as an excuse to drink and party and “be Mexican” for one day of the year when so many people deplore Mexicans during the rest of the year.

Cinco de Mayo reminds me so much of St. Patrick’s Day: a whole bunch of people with no connection to a culture appropriate a minor holiday and use it as an excuse to get drunk.

Seriously, people. Just get drunk. You don’t need the pretense of another culture’s holiday.

Soooo Cinco de Mayo is my birthday and it was really weird to become, say, a late teen and learn that it was apparently some kind of drinking holiday. I didn’t really mind in college but now it feels uncomfortable. No one ever knows what the holiday actually is, they just know they want their Corona with lime!

Yea. If we used Paddy’s Day and 16th of September as days to honor populations and cultures that have significantly shaped the US through immigration, they would be awesome days for Americans to celebrate and recognize that history.

Unfortunately, Paddy’s Day is pretty much “I don’t have to feel guilty about being white day” and Cinco de Mayo is pretty much “Mexican culture (mis)appropriation day.” Not a lot of honor in either interpretation.

I do know for at least some Irish-American Catholics, St. Patrick’s Day is more of a religious holiday…and for some Irish-Americans, it’s about celebrating their heritage, not partying. At least, at Hallmark we make some cards that focus on these aspects of the holiday, and people buy them.

My in-laws used to always have a brunch on St. Patrick’s Day and invite the old Irish priest at their church. It seemed like a nice tradition.

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