Monday, May 4, 2015

Cinco de Mayo: Holiday, History, Mashup & Video

The Holiday and its History: Cinco de Mayo (Spanish for "the fifth of May") commemorates the Mexican army's improbable victory over French occupying forces at the Battle of Puebla in 1862. Though no longer a national holiday in Mexico ("Grito de Dolores," Mexico's Independence Day of September 16 is much more important), Mexican public school children still get Cinco de Mayo off, and it's a public holiday in the Mexican states of Puebla and Veracruz. The day has gained much more significance, popularity, and recognition in the United States (especially in the Southwest), and has spread to certain cities in Canada, the Caribbean, Australia, New Zealand, the UK, France, and anywhere else there are substantial Mexican minorities or appreciation for Mexican culture. Cinco de Mayo is even celebrated in Tokyo!

Celebrations outside Mexico were started in 1862 by Mexican miners in Columbia, California when they first heard the news of General Ignacio Zaragoza Sequín's victory over the French and spontaneously responded by firing rifles in the air, launching fireworks, singing patriotic songs, and making impromptu speeches. The holiday first gained real steam in the U.S. during the 1940s and the rise of the Chicano Movement, again mostly in California. While Cinco de Mayo celebrations had spread to cities in other states during the 50s, 60s, and 70s, they first became nationally popular when beer companies and other marketers (correctly) sensed there was money to be made and began to promote the day across the country. Since then, Cinco de Mayo has expanded around the world and become not just a celebration of Mexican ethnicity, culture, and pride, but for many people an excuse to party - something akin to St. Patrick's Day. However, as journalist Kenn Rodriguez noted last year, we should never forget its origins:

"Cinco de Mayo may have started as a purely Mexican celebration, but it is much more than that. It’s an American celebration, for all the people of the Western Hemisphere. It’s a day when the people themselves rose up against the tyranny of a foreign invader and fought for their freedom and, against overwhelming odds, won. Because of that, Cinco de Mayo should be an inspiring day for everyone who values freedom and justice. So when you raise your Corona to celebrate on May 5, don’t forget to send a salute to the underdogs — and freedom."

For detailed information about Cinco de Mayo and the history of Mexican America, watch this:


And if you have even the slightest interest in military history, please watch this:

Sources & links:
News Bulletin: Cinco de Mayo Should be Celebrated for the Right Reasons
International Business Times: The Mexican Battle that Became an American Fiesta

The Mashup and Video: As a Mexican-American born in California, I have always appreciated Cinco de Mayo, though not always consciously. I dimly remember enjoying a few Californian parades and parties when I was a small child, but in 1977, my family moved to Washington State where the holiday was virtually non-existent and I was one of the few brown kids around. Yet Washington (or at least King County) has always been a relatively open-minded place, and despite occasional "beaner" jokes, I felt free to assert my Mexican heritage, though I had forgotten about Cinco de Mayo.

Some years ago (in 2009), I decided to remedy this lapse with a special Cinco de Mayo mashup, one I played for the first time at Bootie Munich. Though the show was on a Friday or Saturday, in 2009 Cinco de Mayo fell on a Tuesday, as it does this year, which made me keen to now finally produce a video. The reason is Ween's line featured at the end of the mashup: "Cinco de Mayo's on Tuesday." Here's the audio mashup (featured on Collected Mashups Vol. 4: Sleeper), which blends the music of War, Free, Deee-Lite, Beyoncé, Pitbull, and Ween:

Now for the video: As Warqueen was kind enough to point out on Twitter and as Wardrums commented on Youtube, the history of War (the band) has been complicated, with most of the original members losing a federal lawsuit to use the name, and now touring under the moniker The Lowrider Band (here's their website, facebook & twitter). I was unaware of this and even beforehand couldn't discover any original video of War performing "Cinco de Mayo," though in the meantime I've found this later performance by the original vocalist, Howard Scott with Reign. The War footage I featured in the video is only of original keyboardist, Lonnie Jordan, officially using the name after the lawsuit with a non-original band.

It's all good! Enjoy! ¡Feliz Cinco de Mayo!

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