Happy Cindo de Mayo!! Cheers! Err . . . I mean, Salud! Err . . .
Oh, wait. You mean, that was yesterday? Ohhh, crap.
(Ugh, I have a headache! And who are you? And where are my shoes?!)
Lol, okay, so the above did not happen to me this morning. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I celebrated Cinco de Mayo. I’m not much a tequila drinker, and I’m too much of an introvert for rowdy parties. My idea of a wild night is running and looking for household items at discount stores like T.J. Maxx and Marshall’s. 😂
That said, while I was out running and looking for household items at discount stores like T.J. Maxx and Marshall’s (yes, that’s really how I spent Cinco de Mayo), I couldn’t help noticing how busy Abuelo’s Mexican Restaurant in West Knoxville was until late last night. American’s sure do enjoy celebrating Mexico’s Independence Day!
Oh, wait. Say, whaaa? You mean that’s not what Cinco de Mayo is about?
I found this video on facebook the other day, and it made me giggle (and feel somewhat embarrassed), but it reminded me of something I’ve been thinking about for a while — something this video almost hit on, but not quite.
Hear me out.
As an English as a Second Language teacher, I’ve been frustrated by my own monolingualism. I studied French in high school and college, but honestly, I’ve forgotten most of it, and I’ve always felt my foreign language instruction started too late. Science has proven that the time to learn languages is when we’re young, before all of our brain’s neural pathways are done forming. So why wasn’t I offered a second language class until I was 16?
There are a few reasons for this — one of them being that I went to a tiny elementary and high school — but another is that the U.S. population is extremely diverse. Sure, we have a large Mexican population, but there are many other ethnicities here, too — too many for the U.S. to adopt a single “second national language.” With so many peoples represented, how do we pick just one?
This is, of course, why many ‘Muricans know only one language, English, and speaks to another feature of U.S. culture, as well — its mixture of cultures. At any given point in many U.S. cities you’ll find people celebrating traditions that didn’t necessarily originate here. It’s kind of neat, in a way. I certainly loved seeing the Kite Festival when I lived in Berkeley — it reminded me of Taiwan. But in doing so, we also take a risk. In trying to create one giant all-inclusive culture, we risk losing the true meaning behind these various holidays.
And that is exactly what’s happened.
Take the above video as an example. The Mexicans know the story behind Cinco de Mayo, but the rest of us? Well . . . We all know about ‘Muricans’ reputation. We’ll look for any excuse to party it up and get sloppy drunk, right?
And honestly, I’m not sure how to fix this. I mean, obviously Americans need to lay off the alcohol. And it’d be great if we took the time to fact-check the various cultural holidays we’ve become accustomed to celebrating. But life’s complicated and most people are doing the best they can to stay afloat as it is. And yet . . .
Busy or not, there’s no doubt in my mind that Americans would benefit by taking greater true interest in “the world outside.” In fact, the whole world would.
The greatest takeaway I got from living in abroad was that there is beauty and value in every culture. There’s no one “best culture” or “best civilization.” Mankind is a diverse, beautiful mess, and we occupy this planet together. Can you imagine how boring things would be if everyone everywhere was entirely the same? (Another reason racism is entirely stupid, but that’s a topic for another post.) And I just can’t help but wonder what this world would be like, how much richer all of our lives would be, if we all took a step back and looked at our combined “bigger picture,” and at how our stories overlap, and at how, together, we as Mankind create both our own “truths” and history . . . ?
*Images: The world wide web