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Cinco de Mayo is as American as you can get

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POSTED May 4, 2013 12:59 a.m.

People need to stop having heart palpations over Cinco de Mayo celebrations.

It is as an American observance as St. Patrick’s Day.

There is no “pure American” gene, so to speak, or ethnicity. Yes, the native Indians were here first but rest assured they didn’t consider themselves to be residents of the United States of America when Europeans landed   - including the Spanish - nor when the revolution allowed the split from the throne. That is something that was foisted upon them.

Cinco de Mayo is no more undermining of American culture than St. Patrick’s Day. It is the opposite. It is a celebration of American culture of which people who are offspring of immigrants from places such as England, Italy, Portugal, Germany, West Africa, Japan, Iraq, China, Southeast Asia, Mexico and Latin America can trace their ancestry.

It is not insulting to America to wave a Mexican flag on Cinco de Mayo just like it isn’t to display the Portuguese flag during a Holy Ghost festa, the Chinese flag during Chinese New Year, the Italian flag on Columbus Day or the German flag on Oktoberfest.

Yes, there need to be a unifying language and that happens to be the language of the economy - English. But beyond that most debates over “foreigners” are broad brush affairs that include legal immigrants and those who were born here and who are second-generation Americans all the way to 20th generation and beyond.

What makes America different - and is its primary strength - is the fact it is a woven cloth of many cultures.

As for the day itself, it is an “official” observance as proclaimed by a concurrent resolution of Congress on June 7, 2005 that called upon the people of this country to observe Cinco de Mayo with appropriate activities.

Unless someone is going to argue that Congress is somehow an extension of the Mexican government - and I’m sure there are some narrow-minded folks who would - the elevation of the status of Cinco de Mayo as part of the cultural fabric of this country has been encouraged by the very people we elect.

Frankly, as a fifth generation Californian I’m probably more influenced by the actions and culture of Mexico through the years than the ethnic nations that make up my personal version of the American melting pot.

I live in California where Spanish surnames given to cities and geography reflect the fact that a large chunk of the western United States at one time was not just under Spanish control but Mexican control as well.

The blood of Mexican-born soldiers as well as the sons, grandsons, great-grandsons, and great-great--grandsons of those who immigrated here years ago has been spilled on the battlefield protecting all of our freedoms.

The Mexican culture - and food - is as much a part of the Californian and American culture as the Italians to name another ethnic and nationality group.

It is a great disservice to debate immigration - illegal and otherwise - in such a manner that it casts ugly overtones on anyone who happens to have a connection to Mexico whether it is through blood line or recent immigration. No American’s ethnic background is superior to another.

Just because the “Hispanic” population is growing doesn’t mean it is 100 percent illegal immigrants.

Forty years ago in Lincoln up in Placer County the federal government made a big deal over the fact 34 percent of the students enrolled in school had “Hispanic” surnames.”

Amazing as it may seem to some, kids with last names like Avila had blue eyes and blond hair. While some were trying to master English as a second language most kids that fell in the Hispanic category enunciated and spoke better English than I did.

The police chief was Robert Jimenez. The mayor was Louis DeArcos. And no one was about to argue those two World War II veterans - or countless others with Mexican surnames that served - weren’t Americans.

Our strength is the fact there is no pure “American” blood line nor is there a unique American culture.

We are influenced from cultures brought to this country from the far reaches of the globe.

In the end we are all Americans.



This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.  He can be contacted at dwyatt@mantecabulletin.com or 209-249-3519.

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