A Toast, to Benito Juárez

5 May

 By Dan Luzer

Cinco de Mayo is one of those word combinations that practically demands an exclamation point. Because you know you’re going to get drunk on vaguely foreign—though ultimately nonthreatening—beverages and you know it’s going to be so… much…fun.

The trouble with this holiday is that no one quite knows why they are celebrating it. It’s not a real holiday but it’s also not one of those ambiguously historic pseudo-holidays where you still had to go to school but at least someone explained what Presidents’ Day or Martin Luther King Day was all about.

It’s actually rather like St. Patrick’s Day (drunken, ethnic, unofficial), but with that one the inherent meaning of the Day is pretty effectively conveyed by the name. Likewise with New Year’s.

With Cinco de Mayo people are sort of vaguely encouraged to behave like retards. I don’t mean that the problem is drinking a lot. Drinking a lot is great. The problem is drinking a lot for no good reason. On a Wednesday. 

This is particularly awkward if you decide to commemorate this holiday by drinking in a Mexican-themed bar in some major metropolitan city. In this, the only actual Mexicans you meet that day will be people working at really, really non-glamorous jobs, like as busboys. That shouldn’t make you feel terrible but it should make you feel a little uncomfortable. Why are you celebrating a Mexican holiday, anyway?  They aren’t.

So what’s the deal with Cinco de Mayo?  Um, Mexico? Like Mexican Independence Day, right? No, Mexican Independence Day, which is actually rather important to real Mexicans, is September 16th.

For those interested, Cinco de Mayo actually commemorates the victory of the Mexican Army in one battle with France in 1862. The French Army, led by General Charles de Lorencez, suffered its first defeat by the generally inferior Mexican army, led by General Ignacio Zaragoza Seguín at the Battle of Puebla. This was at a period of time when France invaded Mexico in an attempt to collect Mexico’s debts, um basically. 

Ok you got it (Zar-ah-go-tha)? Hope you had fun at Dorrian’s Red Hand.


4 Responses to “A Toast, to Benito Juárez”

  1. Marc May 6, 2010 at 4:27 pm #

    Can your next installment tell me why Casmir Pulaski got me out of school on the first Monday of every March? kthx.

    • Daniel May 6, 2010 at 5:06 pm #

      Because there are lots of Polish people in Chicago.

      • Claire May 6, 2010 at 8:31 pm #

        I’m Polish.

  2. Bob May 1, 2011 at 11:58 pm #



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