BOISE CITY, Okla. — Wednesday is Cinco de Mayo and while many people may celebrate the holiday thinking it's Mexico's Independence Day, the bloody origin and commercialization of the holiday is a wildly different story, as one Boise State University doctor explained to The 208.
Dr. Dora Ramirez teaches Chicano studies at Boise State and said while "drunk people" may be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of Cinco de Mayo, its rise in mainstream American culture can be attributed to FDR and later, beer companies.
On May 5, 1862, a rag-tag and outnumbered Mexican army beat the French army, who hadn't lost in nearly 50 years, at the Battle of Puebla, Ramirez said.
The victory in the war for Mexican independence was short-lived but President Benito Juarez made it a national holiday in 1867.
"Puebla, Mexico does celebrate it, so does Mexico City but not many other places in Mexico do celebrate it so it's very much a U.S. holiday," she explained.
Dr. Ramirez said Cinco de Mayo's significance in the states began in the 1930s with President Franklin D. Roosevelt's Good Neighbor Policy.
"The thing with Cinco de Mayo, it was also used in the 40s after World War II to really integrate U.S. values and say, 'Hey, we're all American,'" she explained.
A few decades later, the holiday gained more notoriety during the farmworker civil rights movement in the 1960s. However, it soon faded into the background for a couple of decades again.
"It wasn't until the 1980s that the beer industry decided, 'Hey, this is a good holiday to make some money,'" she said, adding that the holiday's current manufactured corporate state won't likely change anytime soon.
Dr. Ramirez said she hopes that idea of the holiday bringing Americans together would be brought back.
"That's part of Cinco de Mayo that I think is missing in our conversations about what it means, you know, it's like bringing people together, not separating, or segregating them," she said.
While she doesn't mind how commercialized the holiday has become, she hopes that people can get away from caricatures, like accents, sombreros and mustaches, that were created to divide and not unite.
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