By Andy Porres
Here comes another corporate highjacked holiday, Memorial Day.
Of all the national highjacked celebrations, this is perhaps the most difficult to swallow commercially. Originally, the country paused to pay respect to its armed forces fallen. But leave it to corporate greed to pull off another marketing trick.
Three years ago, Americas beer industry spent $171 million on Spanish language advertising. As you can probably guess, a lot of it went for the annual Cinco de Mayo barrio bombardment of beer commercials.
“Marketing,” said Leah Goldman, of Business Insider, “Is what turned a minor holiday into America’s favorite Mexican drinking day.”
Let’s be sure and thank the alcoholic beverage folks for reeducating our Latino youth in their own history. Now brace yourselves for the onslaught of Memorial Day sales.
Highjacking noble commemorations for commercial greed has to rank up there with American companies seeking to build big box stores at the foot of Mexican pyramids. It’s not surprising that children have no inkling of the real meaning of holidays like Memorial or Presidents Day.
“Once, I took my kids to a national cemetery on Memorial Day,” said retired U.S. Army Sgt. Major Richard Martinez of Sacramento. “I told them to take a good look at all of the white headstones then look for Spanish names on them.”
Martinez said it was a lesson never to be forgotten by his children.
“I’m hoping some of my kids will take their own kids to the cemetery this year.” said Martinez.
National holidays as they used to be celebrated, for their historical significance, have attained a new meaning, scholars say, one with a more cynically American value – commercialism.
Rather than focusing on the traditional, school or family-oriented celebrations, most holidays have become marketing tools for the corporations. Beer companies and tortilla chip manufacturers, for example, have highjacked cultural traditions in the name of profit.
It seems no holiday is safe from commercialization now. Forget spiritual or national pride intentions, everything is driven by consumerism.
Time was when a Fourth of July commanded civic pride and family gatherings with both veterans and school children addressing groups gathered in city parks awaiting the annual fireworks show. Or maybe you recall a Memorial Day parade with armed forces oldsters riding on red, white and blue floats.
“Oh, we still have a few of those kinds of celebrations,” said Martinez. “Except today’s events are small in comparison and not well attended. It seems the adults are too busy to take their kids to events that honor our country and the people who have defended it.”
If these parents expect the schools to pick up the slack and do a bang-up job teaching the children enough history, they’re in for a severe disappointment. Studies show that history is often labeled as the most boring subject in school by youngsters.
“Boring because the poor teachers have had the same kind of history courses that have been around since the turn of the century!” said Martinez. “Today’s history lessons should be diverse and much more fascinating than the ones I had, back in the 50s.”
When asked to speak to both high school and college groups, Martinez surprises the students (and most faculty members present) when he talks about unsung historical figures seldom mentioned in today’s books.
“You should see their faces when I bring up Hispanic names of men and women who participated in either the American Revolutionary War or the U.S. Civil War,” said Martinez. “Very few of the students have actually done any research on their own and discovered the interesting facts behind these and other wars where people of color became heroines and heroes worthy of being celebrated today.”
Enjoy the holiday and try to keep in mind the sacrifices made by he generations of Americans before you.