The Pentagon Comes to Cinco de Mayo
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Those of us old enough to remember might recall those halcyon days when celebrating Cinco de Mayo meant many things: closing off a street in what was then known as a â€œbarrioâ€, listening to sometimes inspired and sometimes less-than-inspired music of long-sideburned Santana wannabees from the local garage bands and eating food infused with the love of the local. And we sort of listened to the bandanaâ€™d radical Chicana organizer urging us to become part of the global liberation struggle commemorated on May 5th, when badly-equipped, but inspired Mexican guerrillas defeated the forces of Napoleon IIIâ€™s French Empire in the 19th century.
Others may recall how, in the 80â€™s and 90â€™s, the long lost Decades of the â€œHispanicâ€, many turned local street fairs across the Southwest into the larger, corporate-sponsored, alcohol-drenched festivals whose ghost we can still see today. The proud proclamations of culture and political struggle previously embodied by â€œViva el Cinco de Mayoâ€ gave way to the â€œHispanic prideâ€ contained in slogans like Budweiserâ€™s â€œViva la ReBudlucion!â€ or Absolut Vodkaâ€™s more recent racist -and ultimately failed-attempt to cash in on culture with its ad equating drinking vodka with a fictitious Mexican desire to re-conquer (the dreaded specter of â€œreconquistaâ€ promoted by anti-Latino groups and some media outlets) the Southwest.
Looking back on those days now, itâ€™s clear how Latino children and adults going to Cinco de Mayo celebrations became a â€œmission critical marketâ€ in the clash of corporate empires that define a major part of our lives today. But, as a visit to most of the recent Cinco de Mayo and other Latino-themed celebrations makes clear, Latino events now move to the beat of a new power, that of the U.S. Pentagon.