Confession: When I think of Cinco de Mayo, I dream of properly-salted margaritas and an excuse to eat cheese dip and chips until my waistband feels snug. Most years I don’t give much of a thought as to what Cinco de Mayo is or why we celebrate it.
By the looks of the flyers posted at bars and restaurants in my neighborhood, I think my WASPish feelings are in good company. While I would never want to stand in the way of a lady and her margarita, it’s probably a good time to think about Cinco de Mayo and the people whom the holiday really belongs to.
The short version of the story is that celebrates the Mexican army’s victory over French forces on May 5, 1862. Many of us (including me until today) believe it recognizes Mexican Independence Day, which is actually celebrated in Mexico on September 16th.
It’s a day of historical significance, yet we’ve taken it on here in the U.S. as an excuse to celebrate, wear sombreros, and drink too much. Before you declare that “it’s 5 o’clock somewhere,” think about our fellow citizens who actually hail from Mexico or still have family there. Here they are, watching us party on their country’s holiday, while our now presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump (man it hurts to say that), is pledging to “trump” them right out of this country.
We can’t pick and choose the parts of a culture or history and discard others. Mexicans, and everyone for that matter, deserve a path to citizenship. There isn’t one for them right now. Many have been here for more than a generation – paying taxes, volunteering, and working – yet they leave their house every day in fear that a traffic stop might just send them packing.
In all likelihood, they’ve thought about why they’re here more than you or I have. I’m here because I was born here. I’m comfortable here and my family is here. Truthfully, I occasionally fantasize about trading in my American passport for another – but when I think about the work and logistics to do that, it’s too daunting to me (at least for now). They had to reach a turning point in their home country, a breaking point, and sit down and imagine and implement a plan to leave. It took work, and likely tears and sleepless nights. They fought to get here and here we are making them fight to be here.
I accept some of you reading this may be angry at what I’ve said. Let me emphasize I said “path to citizenship.” I don’t think we can or should open our doors without any system or process, but we can’t deadbolt them either.