My organization, the American Freedom Alliance, shares an executive suite with several other organizations, law firms and accountants. The residents of the suite all hail from different nationalities and observe different religious practices. We all get along pretty well, and there is general acceptance of a range of holidays and respect for individual traditions. Therefore each late December both Christmas and Channukah will be respected, with a Christmas tree sharing a wall along side the Channukiah, the traditional candelabrum that Jews light on each of the eight nights of their festival. Other national events, such as Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Thanksgiving are almost always marked by their own tokens of remembrance.
I was therefore not at all offended when, on May 5, the office receptionists brought a dozen sombreros to the office and went around the suite offering to take a photograph of anyone who chose to don one. They generously supplied a large bowl of guacamole, salsa and tortilla chips in the luncheon room, displaying great pride in celebrating their Hispanic origins and culture.
That’s all fitting and well within the bounds of respectable multicultural sentiment.
But what happens when white Americans begin regarding Cinco de Mayo as a cultural icon that they insist all Americans must be forced to respect as a symbol of Mexican national pride?
That is exactly what happened this week at Live Oak High School in Morgan Hills, California when administrators at the high school sent five students home on Wednesday after they refused to remove their American flag T-shirts and bandannas — garments the school officials deemed “incendiary” on Cinco de Mayo.
The five teens were sitting at a table outside the school on Wednesday morning when Assistant Principal Miguel Rodriguez asked two of them to remove their American flag bandannas. The boys complied, but were asked to accompany Rodriguez to the principal’s office. There it was explained to the students that wearing such clothes might be considered offensive to students of Mexican extraction. When the boys protested that to be forced to turn their own t-shirts inside out would itself be offensive, they were given the option of going home. They chose to go home.
While the school’s dress code policy allows the school ” to request that any student dressing inappropriately for school will change into other clothes, be sent home to change, and/or be subject to disciplinary action,” one has to wonder how the expression of such patriotism attracts the ire of the school dress watchdogs, on a day when more than 100 students were spotted wearing the colors of the Mexican flag — red, white and green — as they left school, including some who had the flag painted on their faces or arms.
Not many today realize how peculiarly an American event the celebration Cinco De Mayo has become. It has its origins in a Mexican army victory over the French on May 5, 1862, at the city of Puebla, Mexico. The French, Spanish and English had invaded to enforce debt payments that the Mexican government had repudiated. At that point in history, the French army had not been defeated anywhere for over 50 years. No country in the Americas has been invaded since that date by a European military force.
The victory, however, was only a minor setback for the French. Within a few months its expeditionary force had recovered from its defeat and occupied Mexico City, where they installed Maximillien II as king.
Cinco de Mayo began to be celebrated in California in 1863 and, to a more limited extent, in Puebla itself. But for the most part, it is ignored in Mexico – and in even in most of the United States.
The problem with the celebration today is that it often hoists Mexican nationalism above American patriotism and in recent years has seen immigrant riots, the veneration of Mexican nationality and even flying the American flag upside down. For instance, in response to proposed federal legislation regulating illegal immigration, students at Montebello High School on March 27, 2006 in California staged a protest at which the Mexican flag was raised , the American flag raised upside down beneath it and the California flag stolen. Other incidents, most particularly in California, once owned and ruled by Mexico, have indicated that there is a restive minority in the country’s largest state who do not subscribe to assimilationist ideals but cling tenaciously to their Mexican national identity.
The school system is particularly prone to this kind of inverted thinking. Four years ago, a parent at a school in the San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles told me that she was shocked to arrive at a parent-teacher meeting which she found being conducted wholly in Spanish, with translations made available to English speaking parents only through headphones. Another parent told me of a high school in Florida where a giant mural celebrates true “American” heroes – Fidel Castro, Che Gueverra and Simon Bolivar.
As Victor Davis Hanson has argued in his powerful book Mexifornia: A State of Becoming, ” if America once invaded Mexico and hurt its pride, Mexico has now quietly invaded America – not with thousands, but with millions, and as an occupying force that plans to stay.” The Republic of Mexico, according to Hanson, is secretly supportive of illegal immigration seeing that the yanquis and gringos once invaded their land, rigged the border to permanently harm the Mexican people and oppress their southern neighbors. They therefore surrepetitiously support their illegal brethren to the north in a covert attempt to “reclaim” California.
It is time we start recognizing that California is a society under siege from those who insist on such ethnic chauvinism, bilingualism and Hispanic separatism. This cultural assault is being abetted by multiculturalists who use Cinco de Mayo, Mexican Independence Day ( September 16) and November’s Day of the Dead to reinforce the notion that the State of California is eternally Mexican, and will one day, inevitably, return to the fold.
Celebrating Cinco de Mayo may therefore be pleasant enough, but not if it gives a leg up to rampant disrespect for American nationalism and fealty to another nation.