Rescuing a Holiday Mexican-Americans Fear Significance of Cinco De Mayo Is Obscured

By Puente, Michael | Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), May 5, 2005 | Go to article overview

Rescuing a Holiday Mexican-Americans Fear Significance of Cinco De Mayo Is Obscured


Puente, Michael, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)


Byline: Michael Puente Daily Herald Staff Writer

Todd Shamberg makes no bones about it: Today - Cinco de Mayo - is all about having a good time.

In fact, Shamberg is expecting a great turnout tonight for the Cinco de Mayo party at Bar Chicago, at State and Division in Chicago, where he's the assistant general manager.

He compares Cinco de Mayo to St. Patrick's Day.

"I'm pretty sure Division and Rush are going to be jammed with people having a good time," said Shamberg, whose place is just one of dozens of area bars hosting Cinco de Mayo celebrations today.

But amid the $1 drafts, $2 margaritas and $2 Coronas, don't expect much information on the significance behind Cinco de Mayo, a holiday in Mexico that celebrates the Mexican victory over the French army at The Battle of Puebla in 1862.

Shamberg said the bar isn't involving itself with the history behind the holiday.

"It's just another excuse for people to go out and drink and have a good time," Shamberg said.

While he compares Cinco de Mayo with St. Patrick's Day, the stark difference appears to be the lack of enthusiasm many Mexican- Americans give today's holiday - unlike the Irish on March 17.

Maru Tomusiak, director of the Mano-a-Mano Family Resource Center in Round Lake Park, said Cinco de Mayo can mean different things to Mexican-Americans, depending on where they were born.

"If you were born here and grew up here, it might mean something totally different," she said.

"But for someone who was born and grew up in Mexico, it's not a celebration. It's something of a combination of grief and pride and patriotism and remembrance and gratitude to those heroes who gave their lives to defend our independence and our freedom."

Tomusiak, who came to the United States 10 years ago after living most of her life in Mexico City, said Americans would not have rowdy parties on Sept. 11. Similarly, some Mexicans who understand the true nature of Cinco de Mayo are more likely to view the day as a somber one.

"That's how we feel. There's no parties, no drinking, there's none of that," she said. "It's more about our feelings of respect and honor for those who gave their lives. We respect those heroes and the legacy they have."

Robert Gutierrez, who runs a public relations firm in Chicago, says Cinco de Mayo was never a big deal while he was growing up in the Chicago area.

But the huge influx of Mexicans to the Chicago area in the past decade has provided advertisers an opportunity to tap into the always-growing Hispanic market, he said.

Consequently, the holiday actually has taken on greater significance in the United States than in Mexico but also has become "Americanized," he said.

"It's become an opportunity for marketers to sell products, mainly alcohol," Gutierrez said. …

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