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The Pentagon Comes to Cinco de Mayo

Cinco de Mayo has become a recruiting ground for a military struggling to sustain troop levels.
 
 
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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 “barrio”, 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 bandana’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 III’s French Empire in the 19th century.

Others may recall how, in the 80’s and 90’s, the long lost Decades of the “Hispanic”, 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 “Viva el Cinco de Mayo” gave way to the “Hispanic pride” contained in slogans like Budweiser’s “Viva la ReBudlucion!” or Absolut Vodka’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 “reconquista” promoted by anti-Latino groups and some media outlets) the Southwest.

Looking back on those days now, it’s clear how Latino children and adults going to Cinco de Mayo celebrations became a “mission critical market” 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.

 
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