I went to Dublin, Ireland in the summer of 2008. I had such a wonderful time there and met many great friends that I returned to Dublin in the summer of 2009. At this point, I know what you’re thinking – “um, hello Rose, wrong blog! This is the one about Mexico!” But bear with me for a second, my trip to Ireland does tie in with Mexico, this blog and Cinco de Mayo.
While I was in Dublin, I discovered something interesting about St. Patrick’s Day. The Irish in the Republic of Ireland do not celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in the same manner or with the same intensity we do in the United States. Now granted, St. Patrick’s Day is celebtrated in Ireland on March 17th. It has been an official holiday since 1903. Since it is an official holiday or a bank holiday, most businesses and schools are closed and transportation runs on a reduced schedule.
But in the United States, specifically in cities such as Chicago, Boston and New York where there is a large diaspora – it is THE Irish Celebration..!! Rivers are dyed green – please note Chicago River photo below. Parades are held – two in Chicago in fact – one on the north side and one on the south side. And let us not forget all the green beer and drunken revelry that abounds during this most Irish of holidays. Except not so much in Ireland… Just in the states…
This Irish/U.S. conundrum brings me to Mexico and Cinco de Mayo. Cinco de Mayo is a celebration held on May 5th, hence the name here in the states. However, in Mexico, it is only celebrated regionally, primarily in the state of Puebla. In Puebla, the holiday is called El Día de la Batalla de Puebla or The Day of the Battle of Puebla. The date commemorates the Mexican army’s unlikely victory over the French in 1862. Also, in Mexico, Cinco de Mayo is not a national holiday. It is only an observance.
Mexico’s actual Independence Day is celebrated on September 16th and is considered a national holiday. El Grito or The Cry is the most important national patriotic holiday in Mexico. It is celebrated in every city center in Mexico with the ringing of the church bells. However, in the United States, Cinco de Mayo is celebrated as THE Mexican holiday showcasing Mexican pride and heritage. While no rivers are dyed or parades held, there is definitely much Mexican food and beer consumed in it’s honor.
I find this a little strange. Maybe I’m the only one. It is not that I am against celebrations, parades or beer. I love all of that..!! But why would Irish immigrants come to the United States and celebrate St. Patrick’s Day of all the holidays they could celebrate? Why would Mexican immigrants come to the United States and celebrate Cinco de Mayo as a sign of Mexican pride rather than El Grito? Is it one of those melting pot submersions that occur? You throw in a little Irish and a pinch of Mexican and serve it up in America and you get St. Patrick’s Day and Cinco de Mayo..!!
Maybe… But it does make me wonder what would happen if Americans moved in huge numbers to other countries. Instead of celebrating the 4th of July as a source of American pride – would we find ourselves celebrating Groundhog Day or President’s Day as our patriotic identity..?? Hmmm… just a little something to think about. But in the meantime, cheers..!! And salud..!!