May 2, 2003

Commentary

Cinco de Mayo con Orgullo Coalition

“Our Culture is NOT for Sale”

By José A. Álvarez
Member, San Diego Cinco de Mayo
Con Orgullo Coalition

On May 3, 2003, more than 30,000 people are expected to gather at the County Administration Building to celebrate the second annual Cinco de Mayo con Orgullo Parade and Festival. There will be food, music, fun, and games, entertainment for the entire family. At first glance, the event will seem like any other Cinco de Mayo festival. But there will be one big difference. At the Cinco de Mayo con Orgullo parade and festival, you will not see any alcohol or tobacco products. It will also be completely free of any alcohol or tobacco sponsorships or advertisements.

“We’re tired of the alcohol industry using and abusing our cultural symbols and turning our holidays into all-you-can-drink events. We will no longer tolerate it. Our culture is not for sale,” said Jovita Juárez, chair of the San Diego Cinco de Mayo con Orgullo Coalition, created two years ago to restore the true meaning of Cinco de Mayo. “Cinco de Mayo is about perseverance, breaking down barriers, beating the odds. Cinco de Mayo is about unity and patriotism. Cinco de Mayo is about family and culture.”

The effort to take back Cinco de Mayo and restore its true meaning began in 1997, when Latinos all over the state began organizing and denouncing the alcohol industry’s abuse of their cultural holidays and symbols to promote and increase consumption of their products.

Since then, 20 cities across California have sponsored alcohol and tobacco-free Cinco de Mayo celebrations in an effort to restore the true meaning of the holiday. The biggest one took place in San Diego, where more than 10,000 gathered at Chicano Park to participate in the Cinco de Mayo con Orgullo festivities.

Cinco de Mayo, the historical day in 1862 when about 2,000 ill-equipped Mexican soldiers and townspeople defeated a better-armed force of more than 6,000 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. Cinco de Mayo is more widely celebrated in the U.S.

In the 1980s, the beer industry began using Cinco de Mayo to promote its products and increase consumption. The alcohol industry spends $2 billion each year in advertising targeting Latinos. A significant portion of that is assigned to promote Cinco de Mayo as a drinking holiday. In turn, the tobacco industry also spends $3 billion aggressively pursuing the Hispanic community. Billboard advertising alcohol and tobacco are more common in predominantly Latino communities, than in white and Asian neighborhoods.

The increased promotion of Cinco de Mayo as a “party time” has blurred its significance and confused the public as to the real meaning of the holiday. Many people mistake Cinco de Mayo for Mexico’s independence, which took place September 16, 1810.

With slogans such as “Salud, respeto y control” (health, respect, and control) and contributions to many of the most prominent Latino organizations in the country, alcohol producers would like us to believe they are being good corporate citizens. They are not. The only thing they are doing is ripping off our culture and heritage to sell their products.

Why did we allow the alcohol industry to take over our holidays and continue to do so?

It’s time that we all say ¡Basta! And demand that the alcohol marketing behemoths stop targeting our community and follow its own advice: “Know When to Say When.”

The research is clear. Alcohol and tobacco produce disproportionately more negative effects on Latinos than on people of other cultures:

* About 23 percent of Mexican-Americans are considered heavy, problem drinkers, compared with 12 percent of white men and 15 percent of black men.

* Nationwide, Mexican-American men are nearly twice as likely to get arrested for drunk driving as whites and African-Americans.

* In 2001, 30 Mexican-Americans got arrested for DUI in San Diego during Cinco de Mayo celebrations, compared to 23 whites, 9 blacks, and 3 Asians.

* The tobacco and alcohol industries specifically target the Latino population and promote Cinco de Mayo as a drinking holiday.

* Every year, 10,000 San Diego youth begin smoking; one third of who will die from a tobacco illness.

The goal of the Cinco de Mayo con Orgullo Campaign is to promote the true meaning and cultural and historical significance of the holiday, as well as to reduce underage drinking, DUI citations, and violence associated with heavy consumption of alcohol.

To achieve that goal, the Coalition is working to:

* Reduce sponsorships/advertisements that encourage underage drinking and heavy consumption of alcohol among Latinos and other cultures.

* Increase awareness of the negative effects alcohol and tobacco advertising has on Latinos and other ethnic communities.

* Reduce alcohol and tobacco-related problems among Latinos and other ethnic groups.

“Our community is being bombarded by the alcohol industry,” added Juárez. “We must continue our efforts to change people’s attitudes and perceptions regarding alcohol consumption and the Cinco de Mayo holiday.”

This year, organizers moved the festivities to a different location in an effort to reach an even greater and more diverse population. The Cinco de Mayo con Orgullo Parade will start at 10:00 a.m. on West Harbor Drive and Broadway and travel north on Harbor Dr. to the County Administration Building, 1600 Pacific Highway, where the festival will immediately follow.

For more information on the San Diego Cinco de Mayo con Orgullo Campaign, contact Jovita Juárez at (858) 688-2175 or visit www.sdncpc.com.

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