Today, it seems everyone wants to celebrate Cinco de Mayo, but in addition to enjoying some great Mexican food with a fruity margarita or Corona, let me give you some food for thought: In 1848, when the U.S. took over half of Mexico’s land, we signed The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo where we agreed to allow the Mexicans that stayed in the USA full rights as citizens– which meant that back then we considered them free people, who were white.
It was not until 1930 that the census then included a separate category for “Mexican” and since the 1960’s there has been more of an attempt to categorize race and ethnicity (which are 2 separate things). For example, I am 100% Hispanic, first generation born here, but what race do I identify with, and does the answer change depending on who I am with because of how they make me feel?
Even though my son, with his blond hair and blue eyes, thinks I am “brown” most of my friends and colleagues think that I am white, and probably Italian because I changed my last name when I got married 20 years ago and kept the name after my divorce. But even before that change occurred, I was always considered racially ambiguous– until people would hear me speak to my family in perfect Spanish.
The questions of race, and racial fluidity, are questions I thought just 2 years ago were dying down, and yet today in this political climate with talks of building a wall and stepping up the deportation of immigrants, they are front and center on my mind. So I ask you as part of today’s festivities to think about what is really going on today– how can we celebrate another country’s food, culture, and history without fully embracing its people as our political allies, welcomed friends, and most importantly equal human beings deserving of all the opportunities our own ancestors were given?
Feliz Cinco de Mayo, and if you really want to help celebrate today then speak up if you hear any hypocritical rhetoric around you!
By Regina A. DeMeo