Dear Gringa on Cinco de Mayo

Adriana Nieto | @Dr_A_Nieto

Put down that cerveza! Before you don that sombrero, before you go to your favorite new hip spot! Before you take one sip of that 9 dollar Jamaica (hibiscus to some of you Gringas) margarita, here are some important facts to consider.

1.     A mini history lesson reminding us El Cinco de Mayo is about militarism, war, and violent masculinity. First, El Cinco de Mayo is not Mexico’s Independence Day, so stop saying that. Independence Day for Mexico is celebrated in September. The date commemorated for independence is September 16, 1810, decades before the events resulting in celebrations on May 5th each year. So what about El Cinco de Mayo? The French Army occupied Mexico in an effort to force the young nation to pay back loans declared in default by France, England, and Germany. France occupied Mexico for 6 years. El Cinco de Mayo celebrations began as a commemoration of a military battle between the Mexican army led by General Ignacio Seguin Zaragosa, and an invading French army outside of Puebla, Mexico on May 5, 1862.  That battle is remembered as significant because smaller and less experienced fighters from Mexico were able to defeat the stronger and larger army of France, demonstrating Mexico’s deep courage and bravery, a peculiar type of masculinist nationalism. Although Mexico won that battle, the French installed Emperor Maximilian of Austria who would remain in Mexico until 1868.

2.     And, in the U.S., El Cinco de Mayo is about dinero. Although not widely celebrated in Mexico, El Cinco de Mayo has become a very profitable “holiday” in the United States and the southwest in particular. Denver is no exception. Margaritas account for approximately 47% of all cocktail sales on May 5th. In fact, the U.S. consumes twice as much tequila each year than Mexico, the country where tequila originated. Speaking of. . .  

3.     Tequila comes from the maguey plant. The maguey plant, sometimes called Blue Agave, is a succulent that has grown in Mexico since as early as 200 BCE. Not only the does the hearty, drought resistant plant contain the juice that turns into tequila, and mescal or, Mexcalli, it also produces the popular agave syrup, and the leaves yield fibers used for rope, carpet, and paper called pita. The maguey juice is stored in the heart of the plant. A pre-columbian goddess known as Mayahuel, is considered to be the goddess of the maguey plant.

4.     While consuming this beverage that pre-dates the nations of Mexico, France, and the United States, perhaps give pause to consider the hands of those integral to the production of tequila for export to the U.S. Because those hands mostly belong to women.

So, this El Cinco de Mayo, instead of toasting your $9 margs to Mexican independence (because that is not correct, remember?) or to the hyper masculinist war mongering Battle of Puebla, I encourage you to raise your glass instead to las mujeres. To Mayahuel, the goddess of the maguey plant, and the women who harvest these tough-skinned ancient plants to make your tasty beverage. And be nice to Mexicans, too. ¡Salud!