This year being an election year, President Obama got in on the Cinco de Mayo celebration by giving a speech about the Hispanic heritage in the United States. In his speech, President Obama takes the opportunity to mention the “Dream Act” (acronym for Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors). This is a bill which would make it possible for young people who arrived in the United States as minors and who graduated from an American high school to obtain a conditional permanent residency in order to go to college. As there are more than 16 million undocumented people living (mostly from Mexico) and working in the United States, this would enable a lot of adolescents who have never actually lived in their parents’ native countries, to achieve the American Dream. I’d like to share Obama’s speech with you: Hispanic culture is an important part of American life these days and Cinco de Mayo is a special day set aside by the Mexican-American community to celebrate Mexican identity, promote ethnic pride and build a sense of community. Cinco de Mayo is a commemoration of a battle which took place in Puebla in 1862, in which Mexican troops were triumphant over the French army (Napoleon III wanted to conquer Mexico but was surprised by Benito Juarez’s army). Actually Mexicans from Mexico celebrate more on September 16, their independence day, but Americans are usually busy at that time of year and the “diez-seis de septiembre” is not as catchy or as easy to say!! Since before the turn of the century, Mexican Americans literally built the great southwestern cities of Los Angeles, San Diego, Tucson, Albuquerque, Dallas, and San Antonio. California is at the heart of this celebration not only because it used to belong to Mexico in the 19th century but also because a third of the population of California is Hispanic and 84% are of Mexican descent.California used to be called “Alta California” by the Mexicans and the inhabitants were called “Californios” or “Californianos”. I grew up with this heritage which is why Mexico almost feels like a second “motherland” to me. A cross marks the place where El Pueblo of Los Angeles was settled and the Angelinos or the residents of Los Angeles put a lot of heart and soul into celebrating this day (a little bit like the Irish-American community do on St. Patrick’s Day, the Chinese on their New Year’s or Oktoberfest for German-Americans and others who like beer!). There are parades, fiestas, mariachi bands playing in the streets, carnival rides, games, dance and art show that last over 2 days. Here we see a Ballet Folklorico performing their traditional dance in Monrovia, California to draw attention to their heritage: Of course Mexican food and alcoholic beverages are the highlight of the festivities and no Mexican celebration would be without their signature cocktail the “Margarita” made with the inimitable Mexican liquor: Tequila. If you’re getting thirsty just thinking about this world famous drink, watch the following video in which “Mixologist” (a more professional name for “bartender”) Eben Freeman, of Tailor restaurant in New York City, demonstrates how to prepare a variation on the classic Margarita cocktail. (A little secret…I use ‘Agave syrup’ instead of super fine sugar. It gives more of an authentic taste…but as they say…”to each his own”!)
For an extra treat, I’m including in this post a video clip of a performance of the Ballet Folkorico from the University of Colima founded by the late Amalia Hernandez (if you understand Spanish I urge you to discover more about her at: Amalia Hernandez: Audacia y Feurza Creativa). Ballet Folklorico represents the many regions and cultures of Mexico as represented in the difference dances, music, and costumes. It has also become postmodernism type of folk dance due to its traditional and modern type of dance styles. At every popular event in California, you can see demonstrations of Ballet Folklorico and especially during the Cinco de Mayo celebrations.