Thursday, March 17, 2011

St. Patrick and Cinco de Mayo

The following is an editorial I wrote for the paper last year on Cinco de Mayo. Since today is St. Patrick's day, I include it here. You will understand when you read it.
-The Archer
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Yesterday was Cinco de Mayo, which is a cultural holiday of sorts in some areas. Americans often think that the day is Mexico's equivalent of this country's 4th of July. Most are suprised to discover, however, that Cinco de Mayo is not an official state holiday either here in the United States or in Mexico. Mexico's Independence Day is actually on September 16th and commemorates a completely different set of historical events altogether. Cinco de Mayo is more of a celebration of Mexican heritage and pride that commemorates the Mexican army's unlikely victory over French forces at the Battle of Puebla, Mexico, on May 5, 1862.

Writing as one who is largely of Irish descent, I would argue this phenomenon of Cinco de Mayo is probably not that different from the peculiarly American cultural spectacle of Saint Patrick's Day. "St. Patty's Day" is the one day of the year where those of non-Irish descent pretend to be Irish, and those who actually are ethnically Irish largely pretend not to be, lest we get pigeonholed into the typical stereotypes of drunken, red-headed leprechauns and their lucky pots o' gold. Whereas the American cultural holiday has largely become an excuse to go out drinking, Saint Patrick's Day in Ireland until very recent times was a religious holiday commemorating one of the several Patron Saints of Ireland. This meant that all establishments which sold alcoholic beverages were closed.

The case could be made that at least the Irish have progressed far enough in public opinion where people want to be Irish, if only for a day. The Irish for centuries were despised every single day of the year. For instance, recent research in American history has shown that the Irish in places like the Antebellum South often got jobs that slaveowners would not even let their slaves do like working in the South Carolina low country rice paddies that wild alligators frequented.

Taking pride in one's cultural heritage is easier for some groups than others. How the Irish were treated for centuries is sadly still the case for many minority groups today, perhaps even our Mexican brothers and sisters whose Cinco de Mayo holiday we, Americans, like to culturally hijack for no other purpose than imbibing a few Corona beers on the 5th of May.

The 67th Psalm is a poem-like set of verses from the Bible that many churches will be reading or singing a portion of this coming Sunday. I invite you to reflect on it this week because it contains many themes along these lines. It speaks of not just one ethnic group but all the nations and the peoples praising God and the light of His countenance shining upon all of them. With all the bigotry and intercultural ignorance that isolates one group from another in the darkness that all too often enshrouds us, it is always helpful to remember that God made of one blood all the peoples of the Earth and sent his Son to preach peace to those who are far off and to those who are near. Let us give thanks that God made all of us, regardless of ethnicity, in His own image, and that we are all beloved by God even if others fail to recognize that fact in us.

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