CINCO DE MAYO – More Than Mexican for a Day

CINCO DE MAYO – More Than Mexican for a Day by Linda Rodriguez

It’s time for the drunks to fill the bars and overflow into the streets again, time for posters and commercials of sultry señoritas sucking down cervezas while their whirling skirts of many colors reveal slim brown thighs, time for The-Holiday-That-Coors-Built in its neverending need to sell beer. For the umpteenth time I answer someone, “No, Mexican Independence Day is September 16.” Like St. Patrick’s Day and the Irish, Cinco de Mayo’s become the day everyone becomes “Mexican,” shouts “¡Olé!” while chugging drinks, and dances to “La Bamba.”

The sad thing is that Latino kids born or raised here think it’s the major Mexican holiday, too. In Mexico, no one celebrates it, except one town, Pueblo, and its surrounding area. Like the Irish saint’s day, it’s been usurped by the U. S. liquor industry and transformed into commercial America’s version of another country, always reduced to the lowest common denominators—booze and loud drunks and big bucks for big companies. The country of writers like Sor Juana, Octavio Paz, and Carlos Fuentes, artists such as Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, Orozco and Siqueiros, and composers Hilda Paredes and Silvestre Revueltas has been reduced to Get-Drunk-With-The-Frito-Bandito.

There is an upside, however. Latino communities across the United States have hitched a ride on the commercial juggernaut and organized fiestas and cultural programs around Cinco de Mayo. If you leave the borrachos in the bars to their pretense and head for community-sponsored events, you can see traditional dances performed in the beautiful costumes of various parts of Mexico and richly dressed caballeros showing their skills on brightly caparisoned horses, you can hear mariachi music—and ranchero and norteña and the many other varieties of popular Mexican music—you can visit colorfully creative exhibits by Latino artists, and you can sample the mouthwatering foods and tempting craftwork of local individuals and organizations.

“If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” is working for these communities as they try to channel all that commercial marketing energy into inspirational, creative events to educate the whole community and their own young people about the cultural riches and diversity that Mexico and the other countries in Latin America have brought to the United States over the many centuries that these Indigenous and mestizo cultures have mixed into the American melting pot.

So this Cinco de Mayo, if you want to be “Mexican-for-a-Day,” don’t head for your local watering hole. They’ll just give you the same old stuff with a little sombrero stuck on it. Instead, check out the events listings for places and organizations with names like Guadalupe Center, El Centro, the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the amazing El Grupo Folklorico Atotonilco, Trio Aztlán, Gran Desfile de Caballos, and many others. Then, dance to La Bamba and shout “¡Olé!” and other gritos not from commercially produced drunkenness but from sheer joy and exuberance. Now, that’s Mexican.


Linda Rodriguez’s 13th book, Unpapered: Writers Consider Native American Identity and Cultural Belonging, will publish in May 2023. She also edited Woven Voices: 3 Generations of Puertorriqueña Poets Look at Their American Lives, The World Is One Place: Native American Poets Visit the Middle East, The Fish That Got Away: The Sixth Guppy Anthology, Fishy Business: The Fifth Guppy Anthology, and other anthologies.

Dark Sister: Poems was a finalist for the Oklahoma Book Award. Her three earlier Skeet  Bannion mystery novels—Every Hidden Fear, Every Broken Trust, Every Last Secret—and earlier books of poetry—Skin Hunger and Heart’s Migration—received critical recognition and awards, such as St. Martin’s Press/Malice Domestic Best First Novel, International Latino Book Award, Latina Book Club Best Book of 2014, Midwest Voices & Visions, Elvira Cordero Cisneros Award, Thorpe Menn Award, and Ragdale and Macondo fellowships. She also published Plotting the Character-Driven Novel, based on her popular workshop.  Her short story, “The Good Neighbor,” published in Kansas City Noir, was optioned for film.

Rodriguez is past chair of the AWP Indigenous Writer’s Caucus, past president of Border Crimes chapter of Sisters in Crime, founding board member of Latino Writers Collective and The Writers Place, and a member of International Thriller Writers, Native Writers Circle of the Americas, Wordcraft Circle of Native American Writers and Storytellers, and Kansas City Cherokee Community. Learn more about her at or follow her on Twitter at or on Mastodon at

4 replies
  1. Saralyn
    Saralyn says:

    Well-said, Linda! When we dig in and celebrate diversity, we all benefit–not just in social experiences and culture, but also in enrichment and fun.

  2. Gay Yellen
    Gay Yellen says:

    Cinco de Mayo is big in Texas It may be for the wrong reason, but at least it offers a chance to celebrate life in these trying times. Just hearing the music is enough for me. I enjoy the costumes and the mariachis!

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