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Thursday, May 1, 2014

TRUTHOUT: Taking Back Cinco

Thursday, 01 May 2014 09:26
By Roberto Cintli Rodriguez, Truthout | Op ED

From no acknowledgment at all, to a proud celebration of "Mexican-ness," to a commercialized beerfest, Cinco de Mayo has seen many transformations in the last half-century. It is time to transform it again and recover meaning.

I grew up before Cinco de Mayo was celebrated in this country. I grew up at a time when Cinco de Mayo became a day that celebrated a victory (May 5, 1862) by an underdog, a ragtag Mexican army that repelled the invading French, the most powerful army in the world.

I grew up when people began to confuse Cinco de Mayo for Mexican Independence Day (September 16). Perhaps that's when the problem started, as I grew up at a time when that celebration transformed or was converted by beer companies into an excuse for excessive beer-guzzling.

I grew up a time when the words "wetback" and "beaner" were synonymous with the word Mexican. Those insults were uttered regularly in public and worse; it wasn't simply whites hurling those insults; many Mexican Americans were often the worst offenders, doing their hardest to show the world that they were Spanish or Americans, not Mexicans. They would never be caught dead speaking Spanish.

I grew up a time when the word Mexican itself was considered a high insult. It connoted being Indian. "Spanish" - a person from Spain - was the proper term. People sometimes apologized for referring to us as "Mexicans." That's kind of why the term "Hispanic" later caught on; it was the closest you could come to calling us "Spanish." Speaking Spanish was the ultimate telltale sign that they might be Mexican, the quintessential unwelcome foreigner.

I grew up at a time when the brown color of our skin was considered both dirty and ugly. It was a time when brown kids were shamed into wanting/wishing they were white.

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