Quit Telling Kids That Cinco de Mayo Is Mexican Independence Day

Feb 24, 2019
10:56 AM

It is not even the end of February, and the #CincodeFallo is already underway. This time, it’s not drunken people wearing sombreros and holding Coronas or silly marketing ads from mayo brands or beer. It is far more insidious and institutional: a literacy reader taught in Texas elementary schools.

A friend of mine from Texas posted the following page from her daughter’s social studies reader, Cascarones Are For Fun, on her Facebook page.

Let me repeat: Cinco de Mayo is not Mexican Independence Day. Mind you that this is a book being taught to children in a public school in a state where 34% of the total population is of Mexican descent.

Pearson/Scott Foresman published and distributed the literacy reader Cascarones Are For Fun. We indeed agree with the title that there is nothing more fun than busting confetti eggs on the head of your annoying hermanito or making a mess in which confetti pieces can be still be found months after your egg war.

But still, a simple Google of the question “Is Cinco de Mayo Mexican Independence Day” could verify the fact that Cinco de Mayo is NOT Mexican Independence Day. Check for yourself here.

I have a better idea yet: Ask a Mexican before publishing a book about Mexican holidays and customs.  This is especially important when the book is published for U.S. students. Mexicans easily explain how Cinco De Mayo is not Mexican Independence Day which, in fact, happens on September 16. Mexicans will even tell you that Cinco de Mayo is a minor holiday in Mexico (except in the Mexican state of Puebla).

Better yet: Ask a Chicano/a/x. The purpose of these books is to include us Mexican Americans into the U.S. pedagogy and to expose non-Chicanos to Mexican/Chicano customs. In fact, we Chicanos can explain that Cinco de Mayo is far more important to us Chicanos than Mexicans.

The battle that Cinco de Mayo represents our own struggle as people of color in the U.S. The underdog Mexicans were able to fight off the advanced military of France, led by Napoleon III, in the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862.  It rose to prominence in the U.S. due to Chicano activists in the 1960s.

It is great and important that publishers and educators want to make us Chicanos and Mexicans visible in school curriculum when we have been invisible or misrepresented for years in the K-12 curriculum. However, they should represent and discuss us and our customs with the same accuracy and mindfulness as textbooks that center on European Americans.

There is already enough inaccurate information about us Chicanos and Mexicanos out there. Just because the text is “multicultural” does not mean that the standards should be lowered.


Christina Saenz tweets from @nyctejana.