Cinco de Mayo: Marking it’s 150th Anniversary & it’s hidden link to African people

Ron Wilkins

In 1861, the 1st year of the U.S. Civil War, the Secretary of State for the Confederate States of America Robert Tombs sent John Pickett as his envoy to Mexico City. Since Union forces had blockaded southern ports, Pickett’s mission was to persuade the government of President Benito Juarez to allow slave produced cotton from the U.S. south to be transported overland and loaded onto ships anchored in Mexican ports. The cotton was to eventually be sold to various European countries to help support the Confederate war effort.

Despite persistent attempts to gain Mexico’s approval the Mexican government refused and John Pickett’s mission failed. To compound Pickett’s failure and disappointment prior to his return empty handed to the U.S. south, he was thrown into jail in Mexico City after getting into a fist fight with a Union sympathizer there. U.S. rulers have been careful to exclude this event and any acknowledgement of the mutually beneficial history that Mexican and African people share.

The destiny of Africa’s scattered people has been impacted and decided in more countries than popular history has acknowledged. Mainstream history does not reveal how Africans benefited from France’s humiliating defeat at Puebla, Mexico on May 5, 1862. Cinco de Mayo is a fitting and spirited annual celebration which reminds us of Mexico’s heroic, although short-lived victory over Napoleon 3rd’s larger and better-armed forces.

Black people should also celebrate the French army’s defeat at the hands of Mexican forces for two reasons. First, Napoleon’s generals, who commanded the French invaders, supported the slave-holding Confederacy in the U.S. Second, Benito Juárez, the president of Mexico at that time, gave land to anti- colonial Black-Seminoles.

Napolean III

Napoleon III had hoped that the Confederacy would quickly win the U.S. Civil War, retain slavery and supply southern cotton to French textile mills. Napoleon was encouraged by the major Confederate victory over union forces at Bull Run. He envisioned an alliance between himself and slaveholding U.S. southerners to guarantee raw materials for French industry. Napoleon was well on his way to satisfying this ambition when the defenders at Puebla, although out- manned and out-gunned, interrupted his imperialist ambitions to conquer and subjugate Mexico’s people, and position himself side by side with those who held Africans in bondage.

The French forces, considered to be the best army of that day, were so contemptuous of Mexican forces that they attempted to push right through the center of Puebla’s defenders in their first assault. This tactical error cost the French over a thousand casualties, dead or wounded, strewn on the battlefield. The Mexican army was so heartened by their success that they left their positions and chased the humiliated French troops. The defeat of a Confederate ally such as Napoleon, is a historic event that descendants of enslaved Africans and all others who uphold democracy should celebrate with enthusiasm. It was President Benito Juárez who gave land to a faction of the Black-Seminole freedom fighters that had carried on a long and courageous war of liberation against Spanish and U.S. colonizers. It was certainly in the interest of Blacks on both sides of the Rio Grande, that the Juárez government which had befriended rebellious slaves, and whose predecessor had outlawed slavery, survive Napoleon’s invasion and continue in office.

It is interesting to note that Napoleon was urged to invade and overthrow the Mexican government by the brother of Austria’s emperor Archduke Maximilian. Maximilian’s involvement in the plot gives Africans even more cause to join with Chicano neighbors in celebrating Cinco de Mayo. Six years before Napoleon’s ill-fated invasion of Mexico,

Maximilian married Carlotta, sister of the infamous King Leopold 2nd of Belgium- a racist despot who was personally responsible for colonizing, mutilating and annihilating millions of Congolese in his drive for profits. It is also worth noting that during this period Europe’s ruling elites were busily plotting the conquest of non-Western people-often cooperating with one another and occasionally competing. By 1884 at the infamous Berlin Conference France, Britain, Germany, Portugal, Spain, Belgium, Italy and the Netherlands, joined by the U.S. as godfather, resolved their differences and divided the African continent among themselves.

Through shared misfortune – conquest and slavery – the histories of Mexicans and Blacks in this hemisphere have become inseparably linked. Few, if any, oppressed people have overcome adversity without assistance from allies. Indigenous and African people have been one another’s primary ally in many instances, since the beginning of the pillage, slavery and genocide initiated by Columbus in the Americas over 500 years ago. From Canada to the southern tip of South America, countless acts of joint resistance to colonization and slavery are central to the suppressed history of both peoples. Present-day Black and Brown conflicts whether at high school campuses, on the streets, on the big yard at San Quentin or between equally disempowered Latino and Black laborers in South L.A., rewards the same elites whose wealth and power are dependent upon divided and unorganized people of color.

Whether the flashpoint is Puebla or Chiapas, Cinco de Mayo is a perfect time to reflect upon and discuss the continuing resistance by Mexico’s people to domination, and when appropriate, the complimentary dynamics of the struggles for Black and Brown liberation. Cinco de Mayo is not to be commercialized by opportunists or trivialized as a one day superficial and lukewarm acknowledgement of Mexican culture. When honest accounts of history are finally written into textbooks, African and Mexican (Latino) youth will be be better able to affirm, deepen and project their long-established unity into the future.

written by Ron Wilkins (Professor & original LA Slauson)


Just Cause You Wave the American Flag Doesn’t Mean You Have a Lock on Patriotism-(American Flag vs Cinco De Mayo)

***Here’s a few updates on the Live Oak High-Morgan Hill Cinco De Mayo vs the American Flag Controversy…as we noted this is now a national story with folks from all sides using it to push their political agenda.. Thus far there have been deaths threats issued at the principal. Unfortunately these so-called ‘Patriotic Americans’ have been calling the wrong school.. The principal of Live Oak High School in Santa Cruz has been getting the business as opposed to the principal in Morgan Hill. The ACLU announced that the principal overstepped his bounds.. Wonder why its not overstepping when the prevent kids from wearing red or blue because of gang problems..?

Second, a few folks tried to make this seem like no big deal. Well it was.. Police are at the campus in force as this incident upset Brown students to the point they walked out of class in protest. Parents and students have noted the five white boys were being inciteful and apparently it worked. They are being depicted as victims when in fact they were agitators and have a history of of trying to get under people’s skin. Sadly in the backdrop of this was 15 students showing up in neighboring Pioneer high school in San Jose wearing Border Patrol uniforms and students in Napa High in the Northbay burning the Mexican flag…As I mentioned before why couldn’t these bozos allow their fellow ‘American’ students a day to celebrate their heritage?

Yesterday I sent out a number of tweets wondering when we would have some sort of galvanizing story that would divert our attention from things like the Big Oil Spill which is gonna ruin the eco system in the Gulf region for years. Some joked that the attempted car bomb in Times Square was the distraction.. Others thought it might be another celebrity scandal. We’ll fret no more, we found it.

It’s the story of 5 white students who decided to ‘innocently‘ show up to their high school in Morgan Hill which is here in the Bay Area on Cinco De Mayo wearing the American flag on all their clothing. The way the narrative is being presented was they came to school wearing  red, white and blue clothing and were sent home by the ‘evil’ school administrators after they refused to turn their shirts inside out.. The news showed an angry Latina demanding an apology for the boys coming to school wearing American flags. Angry white parents are shown saying there’s no way in hell they’ll apologize. It’s the perfect narrative for a sensational, ‘distracting story’ that is the lead story here in the Bay and throughout the state. It plays to the angry Tea Party types who are fuming and asking  ‘What happened to American pride’?

In very predictable fashion all the news stations are urging folks to go to their message boards which are already filled up.  News cameras are all down at this Bay Area High school seeking comment. The story is starting to go National.. Give it a day or so.. You’ll see it..And soon they will be trying to tie this into the immigration story.

What’s not being talked about is why did 5 guys on Cinco de Mayo suddenly show up to school wearing t-shirts, jackets, shorts, tennis shoes, hats, headbands etc with the American Flag? It’s not like all 5 dress that way everyday.. It’s not like they showed wearing flags in unison on St Patrick’s Day, Columbus Day or Chinese New Year. The truth is they were trying to pick a fight and make some sort of racially tinged statement. The immigration story has been in the air and to be quite blunt it appears they wanted to prick the skins of their Brown classmates who in case people forgot are also American.. But as the one sista explained, this was Mexican Heritage Day this was their day to share culture and traditions and help folks more acclimated to their backgrounds. But in a world that has been encouraging intolerance, these yahoos showed up being disrespectful accompanied by parents stating ‘they’re American and just wanted to express themselves’

Newsflash-I’m American and so are your Mexican classmates who were celebrating a day dedicated to their heritage. Just because you wear a flag doesn’t give a lock on ‘love for the country’. All of us can say the Pledge of Allegiance. All of us can sing the Star Spangled Banner..All of us have American Pride.  But not all of us know the true meaning behind Cinco De Mayo. Most think its a holiday for drinking. An opportunity to learn was lost by this show of so called ‘patriotism’.

What they were doing had nothing to do with American pride. It had everything to do with asserting dominance to an under representated group, shitting on their day and suggesting that they were somehow not American.

Something to Ponder

Davey D

Morgan Hill Students Stir Cinco De Mayo Controversy

MORGAN HILL, Calif. — Five students at a South Bay high school stirred up some controversy Wednesday for wearing t-shirts depicting red, white and blue American flags on Cinco de Mayo.

School officials at Live Oak High in Morgan Hill told the students they had to go home if they wouldn’t turn the shirts inside out.

One of the students said it appeared school administrators were worried the patriotic shirts could trigger fights.

Some students at Live Oak High in Morgan Hill said others were planning to come to school Thursday wearing red, white and blue.

Four of the five students who wore American flags or patriotic colors on campus walked into a meeting with the superintendent of the Morgan Hill unified school district Wednesday night.

They were facing unexcused absences because they chose to go home early rather than take off what they were wearing.

“We knew it was Cinco de Mayo. But we just came to show our flag,” said student Dominic Maciel. “We didn’t mean anything by it. We didn’t want to start anything. Nothing like that.”

Student Anthony Caravalho was also sent home for not turning his shirt inside out.

“They said we had to wear our t-shirts inside out and then we could go back to class and we said no,” said Caravalho. “It would be disrespectful to the flag by hiding it.”

Daniel Galli, another student who was reprimanded for wearing a US flag, described what he was told by school administration.

“He said ‘If you wear it on any other day, it’s fine; but just because it’s today you can’t wear it,’” Galli said. “His exact words.”

Galli said he was told it was inappropriate to wear the shirt because “it’s supposed to be a Mexican Day and we were supposed to honor them.”

The boys said it was unfair because some students were wearing Mexican colors Wednesday.

“We’re not mad that they wore their stuff,” said student Galli. “But we’re mad that we were asked to change our stuff, but they could still wear their stuff.”

Caravalho also felt the action was unfair.

“I would have taken my stuff off if they had taken their stuff off too,” he said.

Some Mexican-American students KTVU spoke with said they thought wearing red, white and blue on Cinco de Mayo was disrespectful.

“It’s just kinda disrespectful that they would do that on this day,” said student Victoria Wright. “I mean, we don’t go around on 4th of July wearing red white and green and saying ‘Viva Mexico,’ because that’s disrespectful.”

One student showed us a Mexican flag belt buckle he wore Wednesday. He disagreed with the way the American flag-wearing kids were treated.

“I think it was kind of going overboard with the suspension, but it’s also kind of disrespectful because it’s our day,” said student Sal Orona.

Dominic Maciel said his father is of Mexican descent.

“I have no problem with them wearing their Mexican stuff, their Mexican flags,” said Maciel. “I just thought I’d show my pride. American pride.”

The school district Wednesday issued a statement which read: “The district does not concur with the Live Oak High School administration’s interpretation of either board or district policy related to these actions.”