We recently finished celebrating Cinco de Mayo throughout the country. Sadly, I’d venture to say that most people, including our Latino community in the United States, don’t really know what Cinco de Mayo is all about. Many mistakenly think it’s Mexican Independence Day. But looking past the misinformation and excuses to party, Cinco de Mayo celebrations still serve an important purpose in our communities.
Many Latino immigrants leave large extended families and support systems behind when they come to this country. Cultural and linguistic differences isolate many immigrants, who, without their traditional support systems, feel marginalized and on the outskirts. Cultural celebrations, however seemingly fabricated, present an opportunity for these individuals to reconnect with their heritage and feel part of a larger community.
The music, the food, the costumes and the traditions help people feel like they belong, and give them the grounding necessary to keep taking on life’s challenges. That’s why it’s critical to have these celebrations. Not only Cinco de Mayo, but any other opportunity to celebrate culture and community.
Additionally, these celebrations help showcase our rich heritage to those outside our community, building better understanding and forging stronger relationships.
We don’t have to limit it to large celebrations. Even simple things like ballet folklorico classes help kids and parents connect with their culture and community. The Latino Leadership Council’s Rincon de las Comadres and support groups for women, offer Latino women a substitute for the support system lost when they left their extended families behind. They offer cohorts with shared experiences a place to help and support each other through similar challenges.
As individuals, as a community and as an organization, it is important for all of us to participate in and support these events and cultural opportunities. Our communities and families are better for them, and they’re a good reminder of where we came from and where we’re going.