National Observance: Ole! It’s Cinco’s 150th anniversary

SATURDAY, MAY 5: Roll up those tamales, learn more about the Virgin of Guadalupe and get ready to celebrate!

Today is the 150th anniversary of victory in the Battle of Puebla; or, what’s better known as Cinco de Mayo. This historic Mexican victory over more powerful French forces unfolded far from our U.S. borders, but it left a feeling of unity that extended across the Americas. Marcela Aviles, writing in the San Jose Mercury News, chides her fellow Latinos for caring more about the festivities than the history, today. She explains in her article how Cinco de Mayo has deep and vital roots in a shared American opposition to slavery and oppression.

All this week, the OurValues column is exploring the red-hot issue of immigration. Much of the news about political clashes and police sweeps is ominous. But, as Aviles reports for her southern-California audience this week: There is reason to celebrate this year. Communities in San Jose are inventing new ways to help our kids succeed, as in the Spanish language spelling bee recently held at the Adelante Dual Language Academy attests. Community discourse can also be the mother of invention. During the week of Cinco de Mayo, VivaFest! (San Jose’s festival of heritage and culture) will host a program with several community partners including the Mexican “poet of peace,” Javier Sicilia, and CNN’s Ruben Navarrette. They will hold community conversations designed to examine and invent paths for healing and full participation in civic life by the 99 percent.

Events leading to this celebration began after the Mexican-American War of 1846-1848 during a time of great turmoil in Mexico as a French military force began driving Mexican leaders from their homes. (Wikipedia has details; as does Before the French could reach Mexico City, however, the poorly equipped, smaller Mexican army had defeated the best army of its time. No country in the Americas has been invaded by Europeans since that date, 150 years ago.

Coast to Coast, Cinco de Mayo is a chance for Americans of all ethnic backgrounds to celebrate Mexican food and music—but also heritage and contemporary culture. The U.S. Congress stepped into Cinco de Mayo activities in 2005, after asking the President to issue a yearly proclamation for the observance of this Mexican heritage day. For the 2011 Cinco celebration, the White House launched a special portal within its popular website dedicated to Hispanic news. There’s a lot going on in Washington D.C. these days focused on Hispanic-American heritage. Groups working to develop a National Museum of the Latino American will unveil he winners of a national poser contest just in time for Cinco, this year. We won’t know the winner until May 4—but the contest itself is part of a heritage of vivid Cinco-related posters, as evidenced by the 1901 poster shown above.

Cooking up a Mexican feast today?
Try recipes from Taste of Home or AllRecipes. Kids can try craft projects or learn more about Cinco at Kaboose. Or, MSNBC offers a guide on buying salsa and chips. According to the Journal of American Culture, more than 150 official events are held across the country.

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