?Viva Cinco de Mayo!

An open letter to the beer industry

By Roberto Rodriguez
Published on LatinoLA: May 3, 2005

?Viva Cinco de Mayo!

It's Cinco de Mayo once again, or as many have coined it: Drinko de Mayo month. For the past several years, it's become fashionable to bemoan the linkage between liquor and this historic occasion, which coincidentally, celebrates the repelling of French imperialist forces by largely Mexican indigenous forces. (That's what the Viva is for).

This is why we should all be thanking you for permitting us to stage these huge celebrations nationwide. At a time when anti-immigrant feelings are being stirred up by the likes of Lou Dobbs on CNN, Rep. Tom Tancredo of Colorado, Calif. Gov. Arnold Schwarznegger and the militias/vigilantes on the border, etc. - it's a relief to know that an entire industry wholeheartedly contributes to the celebration of the much-maligned Mexican culture. (It is so maligned, many would rather now call it Spanish or Hispanic). Gracias.

What do these anti-immigrants fear? Terrorists or the browning or contamination of the nation? Do they actually believe that the complete walling of the southern border is going to solve the nation's problems or that it will take their fear away?

That's why we thank you. While it's true that of late, many of the celebrations or the celebrants, have not been emphasizing the anti-imperialist nature of Cinco de Mayo, deep down, people know that it's a victory of the underdog. It's difficult not to laugh about this, but before the U.S. public began clamoring for "freedom fries" (rather than French fries) Mexicans had been rebelling against the French and its imperial culture since May 5, 1862. But just as Mexicans no longer revere all things French, all things French are no longer despised. All cultures, as long as they're not imposed, have a beauty to them.

But back to the central point. This is about your laudatory role in promoting Cinco de Mayo. Supporting the victory of a rag-tag army gives inspiration to peoples worldwide. It also sets an example for other corporations: they too can celebrate and support other noble, and perhaps unpopular, causes. But to be sure, today, most people are not concerned with long-ago wars, but rather, about current injustices that need to be righted. As an industry, you may not agree, but throughout the country, many Cinco de Mayo celebrants will utilize the occasion to denounce the current war in Iraq - one that was undeniably trumped up and which sees soldiers and innocent civilians die on a daily basis. Without this platform, people would be reduced to simply complaining about the war via e-mail. This way, it allows people to throw gritos or shout-outs against the war. Others will use this event to denounce torture worldwide and other unjust wars (Colombia, Sudan, etc.) and the decimation of our environment and the continued contamination and theft of indigenous lands and water.

Yet, beyond that, the reason we wanted to additionally thank you is because Cinco de Mayo allows us to bring up other injustices that are devastating our communities today, such as alcoholism and all its attendant problems. This disease plagues virtually all communities of color - all poor communities -- especially women who suffer from alcohol-induced rape and violence, children who suffer as a result of broken homes, and the many men that either are imprisoned or die young. American Indian, African American, and of course, Mexican, Central and South American communities are especially hit hard.

This is why you need to be thanked: because every year, this celebration allows many of us to highlight this travesty. Sure, it sounds tongue-in-cheek, but it's reality. Here's an idea. What about a $3 billion fund - raised by your industry (but not primarily through alcohol sales) -- to go towards alcohol education and recovery and treatment programs for these afflicted communities? It's undeniable that your industry has contributed to the celebration of cultures that were previously shunted and demeaned. Yet, this gusto has also undeniably contributed to this rampant alcoholism. Do you not feel any responsibility? How about now getting behind fixing these communities? No doubt you could get other corporations on board so that these communities can truly celebrate in good health a culture of life. (Corporate contributions for college scholarships, based on alcohol sales don't count).

If you truly want to help us celebrate our cultures, cut your alcohol advertisement budgets, especially those directed at our communities. In this way -- to quote a beautiful friend of ours, Raquel Salinas - a rape and alcohol abuse survivor - it will allow us to throw a grito for life. Ajua!

- Column of the Americas 2005

About Roberto Rodriguez:
The writers can be reached at: or (608) 238-3161. Please encourage your local newspaper to carry and run our weekly column.

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