The event took place on April 1st, but it wasn’t an April Fool’s joke. The elected officials, youth, parents, and community activists who gathered in Old Town State Historic Park were not laughing. They were angry.
“There is nothing funny about the alcohol industry’s continued exploitation of our culture. There is nothing funny about them using the Cinco de Mayo holiday as a marketing tool to sell their products,” said Jovita Juarez, Chair of the San Diego Cinco de Mayo con Orgullo Coalition, established in 2001 to take back the holiday from the alcohol industry and restore its true meaning. “We’re tired of the alcohol industry turning our holidays into all-you-can-drink events. Our culture is not for sale. Your use and abuse of our heritage and culture stops here,” added Juarez as she swung at a piñata in the shape of a beer bottle.
Juarez was joined by several youth, 76th District Assembly-member Lori Saldaña, National City Councilmember Louis Natividad, representatives from the Hispanic Advisory Council of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the San Diego Tijuana Border Initiative, San Dieguito Alliance, South Bay Community Services, and several other organizations that are members of the San Diego Cinco de Mayo con Orgullo Coalition.
The group chose Old Town State Park because of its historical relevance and because some of the Cinco de Mayo festivities that take place there every year are inundated with Cinco de Mayo alcohol advertising and are sponsored by the alcohol industry. One of the campaign’s goals is for festivals such as the ones in Old Town to slowly break away from using alcohol industry funding and reject alcohol advertisements that use Cinco de Mayo purely as a marketing tool and demean the Hispanic culture.
They would like for those festivities to resemble the Alcohol-Free Cinco de Mayo con Orgullo Festival that the Coalition organizes every year in different parts of San Diego County. This year’s festival will take place on Thursday, May 5, 2005 at the City Heights Urban Village3795 Fair-mount Ave.that has been sponsoring an alcohol-free Cinco de Mayo event for several years.
Immediately after the news conference, participants went door-to-door asking local bars and restaurants to eliminate alcohol advertisements that promote Cinco de Mayo as a drinking holiday. Some of the festival organizers in Old Town had already started doing that, but the alcohol industry’s money just seemed to tempting and have begun to accept more. Some of the restaurants are so disrespectful to our culture and heritage that they have decided to celebrate Cinco de Mayo on a monthly basis. One of them is encouraging people to celebrate the holiday “the fifth of every month… Why wait til’ May to party like a Tijuana hooker…” This is not the first year that they have done this either.
“We’re hoping that you will help us rescue our holiday and help us turn it into what it should be, a cultural and traditional family holiday. Celebrate it with dignity,” Juarez and her supporters told business owners and managers as they handed letters indicating their request. The Coalition will also distribute and mail the letters to businesses in the City Heights community.
Cinco de Mayo, the historical day in 1862 when about 2,000 ill-equipped Mexican soldiers and townspeople were able to hold off a better armed and highly trained force of more than 6000 French troops in the city of Puebla, was brought to the United States by Mexican immigrants during the 1920s. The holiday, a symbol of unity and patriotism, grew in importance during the 1960s when the Chicano Movement adopted it to generate ethnic pride.
However, its political purpose gradually diminished, becoming more of a cultural holiday, with parades, festivals and many other family activities. In Mexico, Cinco de Mayo is primarily celebrated in Puebla.