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Cinco De Mayo Is A ‘Fake Holiday’ Invented By Beer Companies

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Cinco de Mayo is not Mexican Independence Day (that day is September 16, 1810, when Father Hidalgo called for independence from Spain). Cinco de Mayo is not even widely celebrated in Mexico, it’s more of an American holiday historically promoted by US-owned corporate alcohol brands and ‘fast-casual Mexican’ restaurant chains in a massively successful beer-and-margarita sales gimmick that has nothing to do with the culture, history, or autonomy of Latinx people. 

Remember this shit? Five years ago today, Trump’s now-deleted Twitter account declared “Happy #CincoDeMayo! The best taco bowls are made in Trump Tower Grill. I love Hispanics!” This fascist ghoul’s marketing dreck is not unlike what we see from the white-owned beer brands and restaurant chains that manufactured the concept of Cinco de Mayo as we know it today.

These days, savvy brands know to at least throw a meaningless but charitable-sounding hashtag on the end of the tweet. #CincoForGood exists as a popular corporate hashtag, yet not one post or blog entry from these companies describes any causes, donation efforts, or resource collection drives this effort is supposedly contributing to. Yet they get great engagement, and “Cinco de Mayo” revenue from these marketing campaigns.

The real May 5 holiday Mexican holiday is called “Battle of Puebla Day” or “Battle of Cinco de Mayo.” It commemorates a battle that took place more than 40 years after Mexico had already won its independence from Spain. General Ignacio Zaragoza’s watershed underdog victory (over Napoleon’s French army, not the Spanish) served as a national morale boost for the new nation of Mexico. The day is still a state holiday in the Mexican state of Puebla, but is not a Mexican national holiday.

The modern Americanized concept of Drinko de Mayo, and the cultural stereotypes that came with it, came from big alcohol companies who promoted it in the 1980s as a drinking holiday. In his 2012 book El Cinco de Mayo: An American Tradition, UCLA professor David Hayes-Bautista called Cinco de Mayo a “fake holiday recently invented by beverage companies.”

But it worked. The consumer reporting firm Loop Insights notes that Cinco de Mayo is the biggest American beer sales day of the year.  “Consumers have also been recorded to drink more beer on Cinco De Mayo than any other holiday; including the 4th of July, St. Patrick’s Day and the Super Bowl Weekend,” the site says. “These numbers skyrocketed on Cinco De Mayo, averaging around 745 million US dollars being spent on light beers and malt liquors alone.”

If you want to celebrate Mexican culture on any given day, that’s great. But also think about the labor that Mexican and Central American people put into the food you’re enjoying, Or donate to a cause like The Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES), Border Angels, or Project Corazon. Or just patronize Latinx businesses and tip your server.

But sombreros, fake moustaches, and speaking mock Spanish is just celebrating stereotypes, not Mexican independence or culture.

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Joe Kukura- Millionaire in Training

Joe Kukura- Millionaire in Training

Joe Kukura is a two-bit marketing writer who excels at the homoerotic double-entendre. He is training to run a full marathon completely drunk and high, and his work has appeared in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal on days when their editors made particularly curious decisions.

2 Comments

  1. Terese
    May 5, 2021 at 10:49 am — Reply

    Same thing as happened with St. Patricks’ Day. In Ireland it’s a religious holiday. In this country it started as a day of political/national pride for a United Ireland. Been turned into a day to drink green beer and holler ‘kiss me I’m Irish’. If people knew the political cost of the ‘wearing of the green’ for the Irish when the entire country was occupied they might not think the whole thing was a big drunken party

  2. Mark
    May 5, 2021 at 1:35 pm — Reply

    I feel like it’s important to note that the initial spread of the holiday across the US was done by Chicano activists in the 1960’s and was a legitimate celebration of their heritage decades prior to it being commercialized and co-opted by beer companies.

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