Is Cinco de Mayo some kind of Mexican Independence Day, like the 4th of July? Nope. In Mexico it’s called the Anniversary of the Battle of Puebla, and celebrated in just parts of Mexico in honor of a military victory in 1862 over the French forces of Napoleon III. The Mexicans were considered the underdogs in this battle – they were so surprised they won that it became an annual holiday.
Mexicans remain the underdogs of North America. In past decades they have been ravaged by narcos and the human trafficking industry. Juarez, the sister city of El Paso, used to be the femicide capitol of the world (women turned up dead left and right), until this notoriety was eclipsed by being a city where everyone turns up dead. But the entire US/Mexico border has become a liminal and hostile environment, where each year, hundreds trying to cross the desert into the US die by design, due to our inhumane immigration policies.
At first when US policy made crossing at major cities like Tijuana very difficult, it was assumed that it would deter illegal crossings, since the desert is so dangerous. Not at all. People will risk anything when it’s a choice between dying at home due to narco/gang violence or dying en route. Or they will risk crossing if their nuclear families are in the US, and they were deported after living here for decades. Many are not Mexican, but come from other countries like Al Salvador and Honduras. I highly recommend the book, “The Line Becomes a River” by Francisco Cantú, published in 2018. The author spent several years as a Border Patrol Agent, and shares first hand what desperate migrants face on our southern border.
And now, President Trump has just made it even more difficult to enter the US legally. This past week he ordered new restrictions on asylum, including application fees and work permit restraints.
So as you mix your margaritas and mash your avocados for guac this Sunday, you might make a solemn toast in acknowledgement to the suffering that exists in Mexico, not far from here. You might make a promise to advocate for better immigration policies and raising awareness about the Mad Max atmosphere of our borderlands.
The beautiful people and traditions of Mexico are certainly worth celebrating and recognizing. And so is their humanity.
Happy Cinco de Mayo!
– Rev. Hannah