Cinco de Mayo at Flushing Meadow Park, Queens
At the first event at Flushing Meadow Park, it was clear that Hispanics from all over were gathering to celebrate. As the DJ plays music to keep a lively atmosphere, I noticed that he made a point to make a shout out to “Mexicanos, Cubanos, Panameños, Salvadoreños, Colombianos, etc.” One woman that I spoke to there said:
“Well i’m not Mexican, i’m Colombian. But I come here for the food,the music, it’s fun! There are people from everywhere here, it’s definitely not just Mexicans. Every time they have any festival, like the Colombian one it’s always a mix, everyone can come here.”
Though the festival was obviously Mexican to anyone who passes by and sees Mexican flags, signs in spanish, tacos, and the colors red white and green everywhere, it was really more of a blending of cultures. There was food there that is Mexican and typical of Pubela: such as cemitas and tlacoyo, as well as regional Mexican food that is not common in the city of Puebla: such as tacos al pastor. There was even Colombian food there. This goes to show that the festival served to create a blend of the different cultures within Mexico, as well as between international cultures.
The commercialization I touched on earlier was also apparent here. As the holiday and the celebrations have grown since the 80’s, beer isn’t the only thing being commercialized anymore. At the Cinco de Mayo festival in Flushing Meadow Park, one of the main sponsors, Inca Kola, was heavily advertised throughout. Oddly, the soda has nothing to do with Cinco de Mayo, it is actually Peruvian! But here, everyone gets the chance to advertise and put their name out there.
Freebies were given out by Goya, Doritos, Colgate, Irish Spring, and Krasdale, among others. Chase bank even had a stand put up for the purpose of sucking people in to make new “free” accounts. Clearly, there is no shame in jumping on the opportunity of a Cinco de Mayo festivity as a chance to make a little extra money, this seems to be the general trend.
Cinco de Mayo at Upper West Side Parade
Everyone who I spoke to about how the holiday is celebrated in Puebla remarks of a grand parade, with traditional dresses, and fireworks. I attended a parade on the Upper West Side, which on a much smaller scale and minus the fireworks, comes close to a traditional celebration. Though this celebration in NYC has become controversial, and you can read more about the controversy here, it does try to stay true to the traditional Mexican celebration in Puebla more than any other celebration I observed and participated in this weekend.
The following video is of a part of the parade, a group that marched and performed a traditional Mexican dance. It seems that nothing can come here without a trace of Americanization though. At the very end of the video you can see that among the dancers clad in Mexican attire and vibrant colors, marches someone dressed in a costume that seems out of place: Woody from Toy Story.
Little sprinkles of American irony were found all over this parade. Soon after spotting Toy Story’s Woody, a figure most American children grew up knowing a loving, I snapped these photos. Below is a man who was dancing dressed in traditional attire. I noticed that his socks had an American flag and said “USA.” How interesting two parts of his clothing represent a cultural connection to both Mexico and the United States.
Here I also found evidence of the Pan-Latino holiday I argue Cinco de Mayo has become. As vendors walk around with little knickknacks to sell: Mexican flags, headbands, wristbands, and bracelets, they also have these bracelets representative of various Hispanic countries such as Honduras, Costa Rica, Peru, Colombia, Argentina, Chile, and Guatemala. In the parade marches a group of little children wearing Mexican hats and Barcelona Futbol Club jackets. Also, a group of pageant winners from Columbia pageants carried both Mexican and Colombian flags. Behind them, was a cart pulled by a pony with Miss Venezuela sitting in the back.
Cinco de Mayo in NYC on 5/5/11
Both of the previous celebrations occurred on the weekends before and after Cinco de Mayo, respectively. The holiday itself fell on a Thursday and started off the weekend. This day probably showed evidence of Americanization the most because Americans don’t have to go out of their way for it as much- there’s no long trip to Flushing Meadow park or the Upper West side parade, everyone can participate in celebrations locally. At Baruch College’s own Spring Fling event, which happened to fall on Cinco de Mayo, they had to include a little bit of Mexican bull riding for everyone to join in the fun.
I’ve noticed a strong connection between St. Patrick’s Day and Cinco de Mayo for young New Yorkers. They may happen to know the history of the holiday, but they mostly don’t have any personal connection to it. It’s viewed as a day where it’s okay to spend the day wearing a sombrero, eating tacos, and drinking publicly (Whereas some people view St. Patrick’s Day as a reason to dress in green, drop by the Irish pub, and drink publicly. St. Patrick’s Day means a lot more than that though, and if you are interested in it you can read more here.) I spoke to a mariachi that was hired to perform at a Cinco de Mayo party who had an optimistic view on this:
“The French were trying to invade Puebla, and eventually take over all of Mexico. Then they were going for the United States next. We stood up for them and that is why they want to celebrate with us.”
I’m not sure myself yet if I think that Americans really are celebrating the victory at the Battle of Puebla or if they’re just looking to celebrate something. At the very least, people’s preoccupation with drinking on this day shows that the commercialization of Corona has successfully made a huge impact on society.