People of all ages and ethnic backgrounds celebrated Cinco de Mayo in City Heights. Entire families gathered at the community’s Performance Annex to enjoy an afternoon full of food, music, culture, and fun.
None of the event participants seemed to miss what are usually constant features at other Cinco de Mayo festivals throughout San Diego County: Beer gardens, people getting drunk, and excessive alcohol advertisements.
“We are celebrating Cinco de Mayo the way it should be celebrated: Con Orgullo. With pride,” said Claudia Baltazar, lead staff for the San Diego Cinco de Mayo con Orgullo Coalition, established in 2001 to take back the holiday from the alcohol industry and restore its true meaning. Baltazar was joined by Mexican Consul General Luis Cabrera, who gave the official welcome to the alcohol-free festival.
For the past five years, the Cinco de Mayo con Orgullo Coalition has been organizing an alcohol and tobacco-free festival where culture and pride take center stage. This year’s event was also sponsored by SAY San Diego, the North City Prevention Coalition, the County of San Diego, the San Diego Public Library, and Price Charities.
During the festivities, the rhythm mariachi music, the stomping of ballet folkloric dancers and the aroma of Mexican food filled the air; children joyously jumped around; families celebrated in peace.
“Cinco de Mayo should be a cultural and traditional family holiday, not an excuse to drink,” added Baltazar.
Cinco de Mayo, the historical day in 1862 when about 2,000 ill-equipped Mexican soldiers and townspeople were able to hold off a better armed and highly trained force of more than 6000 French troops in the city of Puebla, was brought to the United States by Mexican immigrants during the 1920s. The holiday, a symbol of unity and patriotism, grew in importance during the 1960s when the Chicano Movement adopted it to generate ethnic pride.
However, its political purpose gradually diminished, becoming more of a cultural holiday, with parades, festivals and many other family activities. In Mexico, Cinco de Mayo is primarily celebrated in Puebla.
In the 1980s, the beer industry began using Cinco de Mayo to promote is products and increase consumption. Since then, the nation’s domestic brewers have been spending millions every year in ads targeting the Hispanic community. The alcohol industry aggressively pursues the Latino community, and other ethnic communities, trying to lure their significantly youthful populations. Billboards advertising alcohol are more common in predominantly Latino and African-American communities, than in white and Asian neighborhoods.
In 2002, the Center for Alcohol Marketing and Youth conducted an audit on the exposure of Hispanic youth to alcohol advertising in magazines, television, and radio and discovered the following:
• Latino youth saw 24% more alcohol advertising in magazines than non-Hispanic youth;
• Latino youth heard 26% more alcohol advertising on radio than their non-Latino counterparts; and
• Alcohol advertising was placed on a majority of the TV programs most popular with Hispanic youth.
“We are tired of the way the alcohol industry targets our youth and our communities. Latino children and youth are the primary target of the alcohol industry. They advertise aggressively to them in the hopes of making them future consumers,” said Mary Baum, Prevention Coordinator with SAY-San Diego. “We are tired of the problems and destruction alcohol is having in our communities. Problems such as DUI, underage drinking, and domestic violence.”
Concerned about the impact of alcohol advertising in the Hispanic community, Latinos and Latinas for Health Justice, a non-profit organization from Hayward, California, launched the Cinco de Mayo con Orgullo campaign in 1997 in an effort to rescue the holiday from the alcohol industry and restore its true meaning.
One of the main goals of the campaign is to take back Cinco de Mayo and promote it as what it should be: A cultural and traditional family holiday.
Since then, the Coalition has been proposing the following measures:
• Promote the true meaning of Cinco de Mayo;
• Create a greater awareness of the negative impacts of alcohol upon the Latino community and other culturally diverse communities;
• Stop sponsorship/advertisements that demean the Latino culture, and encourage binge and underage drinking; and
• Support alcohol-tobacco, and violence-free Cinco de Mayo celebrations
“The use of our culture to sell their products is not acceptable. Cinco de Mayo is a holiday to celebrate our history and culture, not a drink-a-thon,” concluded Baum.