The fabled Mexican battle at Puebla will be commemorated today although most people celebrating it wont know what they are celebrating. Cinco de Mayo is not as celebrated in Mexico as it is in the US. Cinco de Mayo is in fact a uniquely American celebration about one of it’s many cultures’ historical mile stones. The holiday was only big in Puebla until it was big here. A signal that being Latino is as American as a double Patron margarita strained into a large salted martini glass ( try it if you haven’t yet).
A sore spot among Latinos has long been that America accepts our cultural best while openly vilifying us in general. Salsa has long replaced ketchup as our country’s favorite condiment. Americans have adopted Cesar salads to the extent that most don’t even know it is a Mexican creation. Suburbanites love the hard work ethic that is embedded in our cultural DNA and that they so readily hire. Tierra, Shakira, Ricky Martin, Eve Longoria, Raquel Welch, Vicky Carr are loved. The man that fixes fences, the trustworthy woman who creates safety and care for children, the boy that bags groceries are sought after. The voter that preserves balance and the politician that consistently votes for education are courted. All of these people are admired…. when needed.
Yet these same people are conflated by the media with drug smugglers and terrorists. The disconnect is painfully irritating and quite frankly politically and socially unsustainable.
No place is this hypocritical disconnect more obvious then in the political arena. The President called on Latino voters recently to help save his Democratic legislative majorities and a few days later seemed to roll over while the broken US Senate decided that climate legislation was to be it’s sole next priority. In the US Senate races the dissonance is dramatically experienced in Colorado as incumbent Democratic Senator Michael Bennet tells Latino activists that he is better on immigration issues than his primary opponent but fails to move aggressively on immigration reform and on condemning the Arizona hate bill. Bennet cannot win without a clear Latino super majority. It seems that in politics as in life Latinos are charged with doing the heavy lifting for little payback.
The Arizona boycott movement has been a immediate success. People of all races and ethnicities have reacted with their pocket books and are sending Jan Brewer and the GOP led state legislature a strong message. The message has been passionate and clear. While the strength of the boycott movement will undoubtedly have a huge impact on the Arizona market place it provides a warning to the national political arena as well. For now the boycott is limited to Arizona and the market place of goods and services. Both political party’s would be wise to work hard to contain it as such.
While politicians tonight toast Latinos with margaritas as they dip their chips into mild salsa they would be wise to remember that the battle that is being commemorated was one won by an outnumbered and grossly underestimated people determined to maintain their freedoms and independence. A tough lot to beat, just ask the French.
Crossposted with the author’s permission from Huffington Post.