Celebrating Cinco de Mayo, as US citizens celebrate it every year, would be like Texans celebrating the San Jacinto victory wearing stupid cowboy hats and guzzling beer. That Cinco de Mayo is the largest drinking holiday in the US is a testament of how marketing erodes history and creates caricatures of reality. There is something wrong with a society that buys more beer on Cinco de Mayo than any other holiday, including the Super Bowl.
According to Nielsen, 30.6 million cases of beer were purchased in 2013. In other words, Cinco de Mayo has been marketed by the beer industry in order to intoxicate more people. Think about that for a moment, Cinco de Mayo, as celebrated in the United States, is nothing more than an excuse to drink beer, get intoxicated and many times drink and drive home.
How many people die because of a made up holiday each year?
How did a Mexican holiday commemorating the defeat of the French invaders become so bastardized as to celebrate beer consumption?
In the late 1980’s a group of Texas distributors wanted to sell a Mexican beer most Mexicans would be horrified to be caught dead drinking. Gambrinus Group, based in San Antonio, needed to create a market for its Corona beer that it had been importing from Mexico.
In the 80’s there were rumors of urine being found in Corona beer. I heard the rumors in Mexico growing up and thus for many Mexicans, Corona beer was synonymous with urine beer. How the rumor got started is something I do not know, although I have heard that it was a competing beer brand in the US. Regardless, it was many years before I felt comfortable enough to try a Corona beer. Gambrinus, faced with declining sales of Corona beer, started a Cinco de Mayo advertising campaign in 1989 and as they say, the rest is history.
Unfortunately, it is the wrong history.
For Corona beer, it is not about celebrating culture or history but rather it is about selling beer to consumers. Lost in the beer guzzling and the freakish sombreros is the cultural identity of a people who staked their own destiny through sacrifice and self-determination. As Latinos, or Hispanics we decry how our culture is misconstrued by mainstream television, movies and society yet we are the first to order the first rounds of Corona beers today.
We need to take a step back and demand that companies, such as the Corona beer distributors, reflect the true origin of the culture they want to sell to. If we continue to allow them to bastardize our culture through caricatures of it and misguided celebrations then we have no one to blame but ourselves for how the rest of society perceives us.
Enjoy the beer, but be cognizant that the cheers are only exasperating the misunderstandings of our culture in the United States. Instead, toast to the valiant Mexicans that took a stand and told the world we are Mexicans and we will defend ourselves against those attempting to mold Mexico into something it is not.