Something to think about as we celebrate Cinco de Mayo

Christina Greer Ph.D. | 5/2/2019, 7:16 p.m.
Every year millions of Americans celebrate Cinco de Mayo, usually by eating “Mexican food” and drinking copious amounts of tequila.
Dr. Christina Greer

For others it is a way to celebrate Mexican-American heritage in the United States and to acknowledge and support our Mexican-American friends and neighbors. Many do not realize that the May 5 celebration is an annual observation to commemorate the Mexican Army’s victory over the French Empire at the Battle of Puebla, on May 5, 1862. Cinco de Mayo is sometimes mistaken for Mexico’s Independence Day, which is celebrated Sept. 16 (and seen as the most important national holiday in Mexico). Mexico’s Independence Day actually commemorates the Cry of Dolores, which initiated the war of Mexican independence from Spain. Our neighbors to the south have a rich and distinguished history that should be observed, taught, celebrated and respected.

It is my hope that this Cinco de Mayo we will think more deeply about the history of Mexico and the current struggles that continue to plague millions of families throughout the country and most especially at the U.S. southern border. The U.S. president and his administration continue to target Mexican men, women, and children who are seeking refuge and asylum in America. Like millions of immigrants before them, they are desperate for a better life and opportunities for themselves and their future generations. And yet, as millions of Americans get drunk off Coronas and tequila while eating tacos and burritos, far too many will not make the connections between the Mexican-American culture they so easily consume (both literally and figuratively) and the dire situation of Mexicans (and families from across Latin America) currently imprisoned at the U.S. southern border.

Just last week, Pope Francis donated $500,000 to Mexico-based projects to help migrant communities. As thousands of migrants arrive each month from neighboring countries, churches, faith organizations, and community groups are overwhelmed with the sheer number of migrants and the various needs that must be attended to. The Vatican stated the funds will be distributed between 27 projects associated with 16 Mexican dioceses and congregations. For those fleeing their home countries and traveling through Mexico, these funds were needed to continue providing food, lodging and basic necessities.

There are so many communities in need in the United States and across so many nations. However, we have the capacity to show compassion, care, concern, and financial resources to those in need. We must continue to support our small community organizations who are doing the work on the ground and our faith-based organizations who are connected with organizations in respective communities and locales. We must stand as a national and international community to recognize and support our Mexican-American and Mexican brothers and sisters.

Christina Greer, Ph.D., is an associate professor at Fordham University, the author of “Black Ethnics: Race, Immigration, and the Pursuit of the American Dream,” the co-host of the new podcast FAQ-NYC, and the host of The Aftermath and The Counter on Ozy.com.