As the Chicano Movement matured, its participants sought to institutionalize important characteristics of the values that it was promoting. Among the significant developments in this regard was the establishment of Chicano Studies academic programs and departments, especially in the American Southwest.
Many others also caught up in the middle of those tumultuous times but were wary of the term “Chicano,” nevertheless moved to organize similar efforts with names like Mexican American, Hispanic, Raza Studies, etc. Also, it was during this period that Cinco de Mayo was discovered in Pueblo, Colorado as an enlightened symbol relating to the defense of justice and identity for the Latino community.
It helped that Pueblo was and is the sister city to Puebla, Mexico where the Cinco de Mayo Battle took place in 1862. In addition, General Ignacio Zaragoza, the commander of the Puebla defenses was born in Corpus Christi, Texas.
Finally, the battle to defend Mexican nationhood was very similar to the Chicano Movement’s defense against a century and a half of attacks and oppression by those that carried the banner of Manifest Destiny. Among other things, Manifest Destiny is a concept used by those feeling divinely inspired to conqueror and deprive others of their lands, civil rights, citizenship, identity and dignity.
At the time of its founding, Cinco de Mayo was a call to action to reverse that process. As it turned out, Latinos have been able to push the recovery of their birthright by also exercising American Constitutional principles.
Demographics have allowed Latinos to take the struggle for justice from the streets to the ballot box despite great efforts to limit their vote. Places like Texas, where minorities became the majority in 2004 and Latinos are poised to become its largest group, represent the vanguard of a new reality and a significance filled with unlimited possibilities and responsibilities.
Cinco de Mayo has become more of a holiday celebration and a “beer” and music festival. Its relevancy however, continues to increase in other ways.
Comedian George Lopez, in speaking about this increased Latino dominance in American politics, once joked that when this community came into power, they would treat those that were there before exactly the same way the Latino community had been treated. Evidently, many have looked at the numbers and the demographic projections for the middle and the end of the century and are beginning to take the substance of the joke to heart.
A recent article in The Atlantic Daily published a study by Diana C. Mutz at the University of Pennsylvania indicating that the 2016 election was less about economic hardship and more about dominant groups feeling threatened by demographic change. Mutz says that, “For the first time since Europeans arrived in this country, white Americans are being told that they will soon be a minority race.”
The article goes on to say that, “When members of a historically dominant group feel threatened...they go through some interesting psychological twists and turns to make themselves feel okay again. First, they get nostalgic and try to protect the status quo however they can. They defend their own group…and they start to feel more negatively toward other groups.”
The original intent of Cinco de Mayo was for it to become a symbol of a fight for justice. It has since morphed into a more traditional holiday that brings people of all races and cultures to celebrate together while, at the same time, making evident those that see this Latino success as their loss.