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Latina Lista: News from the Latinx perspective > Local News > West > Cinco de Mayo: A Battle for Recognition

Cinco de Mayo: A Battle for Recognition

By Dr. Lily Morales Rivera
La Prensa San Diego

Forget all the articles you’ve ever read that purport to explain why we celebrate Cinco de Mayo in the United States. They’ve got it all wrong.

It’s not about celebrating a victory in a battle on the fifth of May in 1862, in the City of Puebla, in the country of Mexico. It’s not about honoring poor and untrained peasants who, though far out-numbered, defeated soldiers from what was then the greatest military force in the world, the French Army.

No, it is not about that, and it is not about recent immigrants, either. It is about us, those of us who were born here, whose parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents came to this country long, long ago. It is about us as American citizens who have been marginalized socially and economically, a people who have had to wrench their rights and privileges from an unwilling populace through the force of law.

We celebrate the Cinco de Mayo, not in recognition of a battle in another nation, but to battle for recognition in this nation — recognition that we are equal to all others in intellect and goodness, that we represent a positive element in American society.

We seek recognition so that our children’s potential will be allowed to flourish, that we will be given equal opportunity in the workforce and leadership of this nation, goals that statistics confirm we have not yet achieved. Finally, we connect to a battle in the history of our forefathers because we need appreciation for the contribution we have made to this country.

For example, when we celebrated the 25th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War, our local newspaper observed that day by publishing four full pages of stories about men who served in Vietnam. I read names like Kimball, White, Stenzler, Russell, Kaufman, Lockwood. I didn’t find a single Sanchez, Lopez, Gonzales.

We are all familiar with the Vietnam War statistics, that nearly 60,000 men and women lost their lives in the battlefields of that country, that nearly one in every five of those combatants was a Hispanic soldier. Yet, not one, not one Garcia, Rodriguez, or Nuñez was mentioned in our local newspaper’s four pages of coverage.

This matters.

What is reported in today’s press is significant because today’s newspaper article is tomorrow’s historical document. If today’s periodicals mention only the crimes Hispanics commit and the failures they experience, that is all that the world will know about us. If our deeds are not applauded, if our achievements are not celebrated, if our contribution to this nation is not lauded today, our grandchildren will have nothing to honor about us tomorrow.

We celebrate Cinco de Mayo because…

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