Dear American Liquor Industry: Stop Commercializing Cinco de Mayo

Gianna Hutton, Senior Design Editor

Every year, millions of Americans flood to nearby bars to drink as many margaritas as humanly possible in celebration of Cinco de Mayo. The U.S. liquor industry has spearheaded the disturbing commodification of the event, taking advantage of a holiday that serves as a means of expressing HispanicAmerican pride and heritage within the 1960s Chicano movement. Many Americans do not realize that celebrating this holiday by drinking and wearing sombreros can appear offensive and illustrates a stark misinterpretation of the historic events surrounding Cinco de Mayo. 

In 1821, Mexico won independence from Spain. However, many other nations remained reluctant to recognize its autonomy. Consequently, throughout the decades, Mexico lost significant portions of land to the United States, culminating in the 1850s with the Mexican Civil War and resulting in the presidency of Benito Juarez. Through his presidency, he attempted to assert Mexican independence by canceling payments to reimburse foreign loans, angering Spain, France and Britain. 

In the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862, Mexican forces repelled French attacks in the city of Puebla, inspiring resistance efforts and prompting Juarez to mark the day a national holiday. Eventually, French forces took over Mexico from 1862 to 1867, but the day still holds symbolic significance. 

While this battle acts as a great victory for Mexico overall, it is not the ideal occasion to celebrate with tequila shots, especially considering that only 10% of Americans understand the history behind Cinco de Mayo and  39% of respondents saying they believe the holiday serves as Mexican Independence Day (which takes place in September) according to NBC24

In Mexico, the holiday is minor, with banks and businesses staying open. Outside the town of Puebla, the country does not widely celebrate the day. 

In the United States, a holiday that began as a way to recapture cultural pride in the 1960s under the Chicano movement, has turned into one of the top five drinking days according to CNN. In the 1970s and 1980s, the beer and liquor industry seized the opportunity to manipulate the purpose of the event by twisting advertising towards drinking. Corona — a leading beer company — has gone as far as labeling itself  “the original party beer of Cinco de Mayo” with its 2003 marketing general manager Don Mann even saying “every holiday of the year represents a promotion opportunity for brands and retailers.” 

So, to the American liquor industry, stop taking advantage of a cultural celebration launched by Mexican-Americans to gain a quick profit.