This letter is to provoke conscious thought and cultural sensitivity.
I was shopping at a grocery store in town when I came across a sign near a beer display. The sign read, "Buy Now, Only 23 More Days Until Cinco de Mayo." Thoughts came to mind of the "commercial aspect" of Cinco de Mayo that I would see in the weeks to come. We'll see the beer ads, tortilla chip displays piled high with salsa and bean dip, and red, white and green streamers strung up high.
It is sad that these are the images that come to mind when Cinco de Mayo is mentioned. What happened to the feelings of independence and freedom? It is necessary that people respect all cultures, but in order to respect each other's culture, we must first be knowledgeable of the culture. It is first sad that different cultures and histories are barely covered or not covered at all in our schools. Then to encourage stereotypes, from media or films, just adds fuel to the fire.
To set the record straight, we Mexicanos celebrate Cinco de Mayo to commemorate a historical triumph. On the morning of May 5, 1862, more than 4,000 Mexican troops defeated a superior force of 6,000 French troops at La Batalla de Puebla. Gen. Zaragoza led the fight against one of the most experienced and professional armies in Europe and won. Although, ultimately, the French were successful at briefly occupying Mexico under Napoleon III, today's annual festivals commemorate this victory and the courage it represented throughout the Southwest, which we must remember was formerly a part of Mexico.
DAMIEN A. PENA
Damien Pena is a senior in Chicano studies at CSUN.