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Friday, April 27, 2007 | Cinco de Mayo is eight days away, but I am already getting ready for it, by brushing up on my knowledge of tequila.
I know Cinco de Mayo isn’t supposed to be a hangover holiday at least not in Mexico.
Down there, it’s just a regional holiday meant to commemorate a battle that took place 145 years ago in the city of Puebla where 2,000 Mexican soldiers and citizens defeated 6,000 invading French soldiers.
Up here, it’s become a million dollar event for beer companies, Mexican restaurants and piñata distributors and that raises the hackles of activists who resent how the heroic event has become a cheap excuse for pounding tequila shots, scarfing tortilla chips and yelling ¡Ay Chihuahua!
Can’t say I blame them, but that doesn’t mean I’m not taking part in it.
You see, I am an American and that means I have a patriotic duty to co-opt the culture of other countries.
That means I’m Irish on March 17, Chinese during Chinese New Year and pretty much African-American from Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday through the end of Black History Month.
Sometimes, I’m French on Bastille Day as well.
I figure, any excuse for a party even a culturally bastardized one.
I don’t feel I am doing anything distasteful. I want to be inclusive, by celebrating the people who truly made America great: The huddled masses, who came to this country so they could build a life and great ethnic restaurants.
I think celebrating the holidays of other lands makes me more appreciative of their cultures. Which is why I make sure to toast the brave folks who fought that fateful May day in Puebla with every shot I do.
I’ve never had a problem with hyphenated Americans. Genetically, I’m a Heinz 57 and have always envied my friends who bragged about being Italian-Americans, Irish-Americans or Swedish-Americans.
But while they were proud of their background, they were also happy to share it with me. My Italian next-door-neighbor introduced me to wine. The Irish guy taught me about whisky and the Swedish guy on the next street over showed me the joys of schnapps and gin.
And the Greek guy a few blocks away had some Ouzo that he shared on special occasions — like Tuesday.
The important thing is, nobody feared that introducing the liquor of their homeland would make me think they were all a bunch of drunks.
In return, I made sure to understand the little things, like the difference between Northern and Southern Italians, and why Greeks have a little problem with the Turks.
I try to remember that on Cinco de Mayo, and make it a point to read up on the different regions and cultures of Mexico. Problem is, after two or three shots, I can’t remember any of it.
Plus, if I’m in a bar on that day, I make sure to buy shots for any Mexican nationals who might be there.
I think a lot of the Cinco de Mayo backlash is understandable since the whole idea of celebrating it stateside began in the 1980s at the behest of liquor companies.
However, instead of objecting, Mexicans might be better off capitalizing on it. After all, my people, the Irish, had a pretty hard time in this country at the first part of this century but were able to fight the prejudice, in part, through those wild St. Paddy’s Day parades.
If the Mexican-American community embraces Cinco de Mayo in all its forms, it would go a long way towards improving their relationship with everyone else.
After all, no one wants to do shots with the Minutemen.
David B. Moye is a La Mesa-based writer who believes Mexican beer goes best with food and knows the difference between Ranchera, Tejano and Norteno styles of music. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or, send a letter to the editor.