Five Ways to Celebrate Cinco de Mayo

Caribbean, colorado, History, mexico, musings, Travel

Five Ways to Celebrate Cinco de Mayo – without being disrespectful

It’s Cinco de Mayo today, and no it’s not just a holiday about drinking tequila and listening to a mariachi band. While those can be fun aspects to the day, the entirety of the day is not Cinco de Drinko or Drinko de Mayo.

In fact, the holiday has very specific and cultural roots that are often forgotten on the day and the surrounding celebrations. It’s important to remember these nuances should one decide to celebrate, for the sake of a better historical understanding of our neighbors and the cultures that influence our one.

Here are the ways I am personally celebrating Cinco de Mayo and how I would encourage others to as well:

  1. Learn The Story Of Cinco de Mayo
    • Commonly misunderstood as Mexico’s independence day, Cinco de Mayo often gets labeled as “Mexican 4th of July”. News Flash: Mexico’s independence day is September 16 and harkens back to 1810.
    • The fifth of May is from the Anniversary of the Battle of Puebla. This marks the date that Napoleon III’s army (French) in 1862 was defeated by a militia of Zapotec and mestizo peoples. It became a symbol and story of resistance during a time when foreign bodies were trying to establish power over Mexico.
    • As these things go, people in the state of Puebla celebrated the victory, but much of Mexico did not. As celebrations and events evolve, it became a celebration of Mexican culture and identity, especially with Mexican-American families in the United States.
    • The broader United States’ love of Cinco de Maya came with alcoholic drink promotors marketing alcohol sales and parties on the holiday.
    • If you want to learn more, try these books:
  2. Appreciate Mexican-American Influence On Your Community
    • With so much hate in our current landscape it’s even more important to bridge gaps and be friends to all people.
    • In my community in Colorado we have a large Latinx and Mexican-American population, and they make some of the best food and have some of the best parties you could ever imagine! When I travel to countries without much Mexican food, I long for these treats of homemade corn tortillas, roasted tomatillos, fresh guacamole and smooth tequila. If you have these gems in your community, seek them out, and make friends. I know everyone I have met is warm and loving and wants to make you feel like you’re at home.
    • Celebrate local Mexican-American artists, designers, architects, philanthropists, community organizers, and overall great people. Read about your community history and see just how many amazing and diverse people made your world better.
    • Be grateful for the food, music, groceries, and festivals that Mexican-Americans help put on. Whether it’s for Cinco de Mayo or any other time through the year, their influence and work is a treasure!
  3. Celebrate with Kindness and Consideration
    • If you are one that likes a good party, and wants to celebrate Cinco de Mayo (because yes, it’s a GREAT time) then do so with consideration. Go to an authentic restaurant (it will be way better than Chipotle or Qdoba, I promise) and have some drinks and food with people that poor their heart and soul into their food.
    • Don’t wear crappy costumes or reinforce negative stereotypes. Please for the love of god leave the mustaches and serapes at home.
  4. Care About People – Every. Single. Day.
    • It’s easy to have a party and feel closer to Mexican culture and Mexican-American peoples then go home the next day and leave it in the past. The better part is to connect with people in your community and learn their stories, learn how to support each other, and care about our global needs.
    • Donate to organizations that are aiding people with settlement in the United States. Donate you time and supplies to groups working for immigrant rights. Read up on the reasons why people are fleeing north (of course there are many places they come from, including Mexico).
    • If you love traveling to Mexico, consider doing things that help people in the community you are visiting, such as donating school supplies or sewing sanitary products for distribution.
  5. Celebrate With Those You Love
    • I am very blessed to have a mother-in-law that is part Mexican and that has a giant, wonderful, and warm family that always opens their arms to anyone. Many years they have their own Cinco de Mayo party where everyone eats food, enjoys margaritas and has a lovely time. There is an unbelievable amount of love and consideration with these people and every family get together is filled with that warmth. While the food is always amazing, and the margaritas are stellar (thank you grandpa Hank) the best part is the connection and care in the room at any event. That is my favorite part of Mexican culture, is that no matter who you are, what you look like, what you believe, someone will always give you love, a hug, a plate of food, and a giant smile. All of which is the culture I want to celebrate and integrate every single day.

Feliz Cinco de Mayo!

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What I Wish You Knew

colorado, musings, Travel

It’s easy in 2018 to find information on every part of the world….except when it is not.

While there are probably millions of pieces on Paris and London, there are only a handful of helpful writings on parts of American Samoa, or rural areas of Vietnam. While more people explore the world, this gap tightens, but there is always a need for better information, not more.

“Being first is irrelevant when the story is just wrong.”

While it’s great to have endless options for readings, articles, videos, and blogs, there is often a disconnect on the quality of works. Or much of the information is just outdated, poorly written, ethnocentric, exaggerated…. you get the idea.

Recently I saw a pretty popular Facebook page attached to a page through a pretty popular media company. In the video it stated that a VERY popular Colorado tourist site was only 1,000 feet above sea level. To put this into perspective, the capitol of Denver is at 5,280 feet above sea level, and this site was around 7,000 feet above sea level. The mistake was glaring and extremely unhelpful to visitors that may not know what to do with elevation gains, altitude sickness, and other problems that come with mountains.

It is mistakes like the video that create a cycle of bad information and problems for travelers, researchers, and those working in the tourism industry.

Time and time again I return to travel guides as a resource because they have many things going for them, and most importantly, they are updated and more accurate than other resources.

No doubt many bloggers and news sources try to update their work as much as possible, but travel guides have the set up to ensure their accuracy and consistency. Guides also work with companies to present information, update locations, and create a standard of information that other media sources cannot keep up with.

When I get out in the world, or run into an issue on research for work, I find that I am constantly returning to a book on the place or finding a blog that is specifically written on a set region.

What I wish all travelers knew is that it’s important to be accurate, and it’s important to provide good content. Being first is irrelevant when the story is just wrong.

Maybe the journalist in me is fighting an over-saturated market of bad blogs, but I wish I could tell people every day to buy a book, read some more, ask questions of locals. Don’t expect someone that has barely or NEVER been to Paris to give you a rating on the best restaurants. They’ll go to Yelp just like you and regurgitate 30 reviews. The authenticity is simply lost.

you-knew

Must Love Mexico…

mexico, musings

We, as Americans, have a distorted view of our Southern neighbor. Mind you it’s not just one Southern neighbor but a chain of diverse and exquisite countries. Culturally we lump them into a pile.

I read this quote from the late Anthony Bourdain that really struck me:

“Despite our ridiculously hypocritical attitudes towards immigration, we demand that Mexicans cook a large percentage of the food we eat, grow the ingredients we need to make that food, clean our houses, mow our lawns, wash our dishes [and] look after our children…

Americans love Mexican food. We consume nachos, tacos, burritos, tortas, enchiladas, tamales and anything resembling Mexican in enormous quantities. We love Mexican beverages, happily knocking back huge amounts of tequila, mezcal and Mexican beer every year. We love Mexican people — as we sure employ a lot of them . . .

We love Mexican drugs. Maybe not you personally, but “we,” as a nation, certainly consume titanic amounts of them — and go to extraordinary lengths and expense to acquire them. We love Mexican music, Mexican beaches, Mexican architecture, interior design, Mexican films…

So why don’t we love Mexico?”

To Bourdain’s point on one hand we openly embrace tacos, tequila, and tortilla. We love wearing sombreros and mustaches on Cinco de Mayo. We love sugar skulls around Halloween. We love speaking Spanglish to movies and friends. We use wonky “Mexican” accents to mock and make humor. We don’t mind vacationing on their beaches and visiting their monuments.

Yet, when it comes to the people, we care less.

When it comes to the insensitive nature of our cherry picked love affair, we care less about the people and more about our personal advantages.

The fact that we are tearing families apart at the border is a prime example of this. Yet it breathes to deeper racist roots. It breathes of a deep history in this country of people being torn apart. Maybe the face was a slave master. Maybe the face was an oppressive native reeducation.

Today, the face is the newly implemented “no tolerance” policies for families seeking asylum, backed by Jeff Sessions and Donald Trump. Another outreach of a culture that prays on the vulnerable to make a point, to spin a political fire storm. It’s an act to discourage people from coming, an act that has likely not reached the hundreds of people fleeing for their lives across borders, thousands of miles north from the home they know.

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For decades undocumented immigrants from Mexico, and other Latin American countries, have been coming to this country. Once here they are often treated with distrust, hatred, and spitefulness. Yet, they are the ones that are picking our food, raising our children, building our homes, and they are active members of our society.

Around 50% of undocumented immigrants pay taxes, their children are educated with “our” children, their children go onto college and build lucrative careers. In fact, there is ample evidence to show that immigrants maybe participate more in our economy than those that are native born or with native born parents.

Still, we have no problem kicking the most vulnerable when they are already down.

Documented immigrants, refugees (asylum seekers) included (like the ones being separated at the border) are also part of the fray.

We rarely differentiate in our attitude. The other question is, should it matter how these children and others got here if they are desperate? Should they be treated this poorly by border officials? Are they not all people?

Ignorance, hatred, and racism asks questions on “WHERE is someone from?” “Are you here legally?” “Why don’t you speak English?”. Often all brown people from another land are looked on as lesser, as a burden, as someone taking. Even though ample evidence shares a different story.

This attitude stretches far beyond how we see those in the Americas.


When we visit the southern land(s) we often stay on fenced resorts, only venturing into the unknown for shopping or monuments. We rarely delve beyond a veiled surface to understand whose land we walk on. I am also guilty of this.

When we visit Mexico we don’t bother much to speak Spanish, and we demand that others speak English. When they visit us, or move here, we use slurs and condemn. We expect, once again, for English to be used.

We don’t mind using the land, the inexpensive vacations, the tasty food. We don’t mind the cheap labor and the exploitative nature of Colonialism. It’s for the benefit of Americans, so it must be okay. Right?

Yet the problems that cause people to flee, and beg for sanctuary, are related to our own bad choices. We directly perpetuate the drug cartels power in Latin countries due to our consumption of illicit substances. Even our heroin problem can be traced to cartels losing out on cannabis profits and flooding the markets with cheap heroin.

Yet, even though we are active participants, and problem makers in the system, we close the door and pretend the desperate masses are just not there. We have done it for years, and as far back as 2013 we were housing children that were running from cartels independently. Yet, this new wave is meant to punish the most vulnerable, and exploit the voiceless for vile policies, all pawns in a political power struggle.

When we have a leader that speaks about these peoples with such distaste, it’s easy to see that this feeling has deeper roots than “just a few haters”. In fact, the leader of the United States actively campaigned on this hatred, and building a wall, and he fucking won over it. So is it honestly a surprise that he has no problem vilifying and traumatizing desperate families?


I end with this question: if you dealt with the horrors that many of those fleeing North do, would you stay put? Would you allow your child to be killed by a cartel? Would you stand by while your wife was threatened? Would you want your children to possibly end up in these cartels?

I guarantee most of you would run if given the chance, because the small glimmer of hope in a distant land, is far better than no hope at all.

mustLoveMexico

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How Harry Potter is still magical as an adult!

musings

Over the last few months I have been listening to the Harry Potter audio books as a chance to re-read the stories and save time as I finish my Master’s degree. This has been a chance for me to stay sane as I deal with the pressures of real life. It’s escapism of the best kind and it’s a chance to feel some of the magic that drew me to the stories in the first place.

As an adult, in many ways, it’s even better. I actually understand much of the subtext and references that J.K. Rowling was making and I have a better understanding of the dark content that was in the stories. In ways they’re more frightening as an adult for it works well as an analogy for my own problems and battles. I constantly think, “that’s so sad that Harry has to go through so much, how is he so sane?” Because as we get older we realize just how hard and heart-wrenching life is and if Harry can do it, so can I. Seriously.

So while Harry Potter helped me through growing up, today it’s helping me get through being a grown up. Which is a really unique position, and I don’t know if many people get that chance. It’s not just Harry Potter, countless people have also found this in the Lord of the RingsChronicles of Narnia and many other magical series.

If you’re looking for a chance to feel a little joy from something you loved as a kid, I suggest you pick up your favorite books and series and try them again! I guarantee you’ll get something out of them this time around, whether it’s the second, fifth or twentieth time.

Best,

Rebecca Lee Robinson