Welcome to the first issue of Bridgewood. This is my space to pontificate on history, philosophy and culture. So, yea mostly soccer and hip-hop.
This month, I also had a chance to host some really smart people for our Talks@Google Program. Links to chats with Tom Bilyeu, Dr. Andy Galpin and Ryan Holiday at the bottom!
Cinco de mayo will be here in a few days. So as LatAm’s favorite “gringo” and token Mexican-American
, I thought I’d clear up some misconceptions about the date and provide pointers on how to both maximize your fun and tequila intake.
Cinco de mayo is not
Mexican Independence Day. Mexicans observe their independence from Spain on September 16th. May 5th on the other hand, commemorates the day a bunch of Mexican peasants defeated the trained forces of the French Empire at the Battle of Puebla
The holiday is observed locally in the Mexican city of…Puebla, but it’s far from a big deal in Mexico. For one, the French army eventually overran the Mexican forces and captured Mexico City. Ultimately, when the capital fell, President Benito Juarez and his government were forced into exile, paving the way for Archduke Maximilian (of the Habsburg family) to be named Emperor of Mexico.
(The Second Mexican Empire was short-lived. Though Maximilian had good ideas and made decent contributions, he was ultimately executed in 1867, just three years after he accepted the crown.)
So, from a Mexican POV, it would be really weird to celebrate a battle when the overall war was lost. It’s the same reason why you shouldn’t put up Confederate Army statues in the American South: losers don’t get trophies.
Cinco de mayo has evolved to become a celebration of Mexican Heritage in the United States. Sure, it’s a superficial celebration but it’s not unlike St. Patrick’s Day and even March Madness: an unofficial commercial holiday meant to sell you things you don’t really need.
When I was younger I used to get upset at people dressing up like mariachis or Pancho Villa during cinco de mayo. I wanted to run over to the Brads and Chads, tear off their sombreros and ponchos and yell “CULTURAL APPROPRIATION!“
But as I got older and wiser, I understood that there is no such thing as cultural appropriation
since well, culture itself appropriates from other cultures.
For example you taquito banditos, al pastor tacos were introduced to Mexico from Lebanon (ever notice how the meat resembles shawarma?), the quinceañera and the accompanying “valz” came over from the Austrian court (thnx Maximilian!) and the national sport was invented by English sailors.
So to my fellow paisas, don’t get upset that people dress up for the event. Instead have fun with it and use it as an opportunity to teach people about your culture and history. To my non-paisa friends, to those of you who are already cutting up limes and buying Tostitos Chips, I would also like to remind you that though there is no such thing as cultural appropriation, there is such a thing as being a dick.
Just as I wouldn’t run up to every Arabic person I meet and yell “ALLAHU AKBAR”, you shouldn’t be an asshole when/if you go out. Nobody wants to hear your piss-poor mariachi cry and NO Mexican-American wants you to buy them a Corona.
We drink Bud Light and occasionally… Tecate.
Also, be original! If you’re going to dress up, PLEASE do better than a sombrero and mustache. You can be Cantinflas, El Chavo del 8 or Jorge Campos. Put some effort into it, and then we won’t judge you as hard when you can’t hold your Cuervo (gross).
I think we’re often times too sensitive about cultures. We want to protect what we think are sacrosanct ideas and customs yet forget that these same traditions were appropriated from another people. It’s how culture works, there is nothing wrong with that. So this cinco de mayo, have fun with it …and be respectful!
But when you wake up in the morning with a killer hangover, just remember you got turnt for a commercial holiday :)
What are you guys doing this weekend? I’m actually going to Barcelona! So if you’re around, let me know!