Cinco de tres

Cinco de Mayo, a day of regional and moderate celebration in Mexico, has been appropriated by the non-Mexicans here in the US. The preponderance of cerveza and margarita drinking, salsa and burrito eating, sombrero wearing college students aside, even those who believe themselves “enlightened” seem to think we’re celebrating Mexican independence.

Briefly, the holiday celebrates the victory of the Puebla over the French occupation force in 1862. The French occupation didn’t end until 1867.

The stronghold created in Puebla that day in 1862 prevented French forces from advancing on the country’s capital, Mexico City. This past Tuesday, a similar battle was fought in a schoolboard meeting in Tuscon.

The Tuscon Unified School district appears to be trying to align its curriculum with state legislation that took effect this Jan 1.

The law promises to withhold funding from state run institutions like public high schools and the University of Arizona that offer academic classes or programs that “advocate ethnic solidarity,” “promote resentment of a race or class of people,” or “promote the overthrow of the United States government.”

The people of Tucson aren’t taking this assault on their identity and history lying down. In a remarkable display of non-violent community organization and protest , they forced a continuance of the community discussion about the decision to make their Mexican American Studies program elective. The school board has now been set to vote twice and has posponed due to the community outcry.

While the ultimate goal of the community has not been reached, the delay leaves us all with hope that it may be. Congratulations to them for this small, Cinco de Mayo type victory: small but celebration worthy, and wrought with cultural re-appropriation.

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