Black and Brown Solidarity, and a Deeper Look at Cinco de Mayo
We started this blog to share stories about mezcal, Michoacán, and of course La Luna’s culture and values. Over the past few months we have been reflecting on our role in contributing to a meaningful anti-racist dialogue here and on social media, and during that time a couple holidays have gone by like Cinco de Mayo and Juneteenth. We realized that both of those holidays can serve as reminders for the mezcal community that Black and brown people have fought for our liberation alongside each other in many moments in history.
This year Juneteenth coincided with the international protest movement led by Black Lives Matter against police brutality and systemic racism. Juneteenth is one of the oldest African-American freedom celebrations commemorating when the last remaining slaves in Texas liberated themselves on June 19th, 1865. Even though the emancipation proclamation went into law in 1863 making slavery ilegal, that in practice didn’t happen in Texas and it took about two years for Back families to hear the news of their judicial emancipation. If we look at the context of slavery and Texas, and what was happening in Mexico at that time we’ll find a little-told story of Black and brown solidarity.
Around that same period, Mexico was fighting a war with French colonialists who were seeking to take over Mexico which was under the leadership of Zapotec president, Benito Juarez. The French were also supportive of the confederacy and Texas slaveholders because Texas slaveholders wanted to return to Mexico under French rule to extend their ability to own slaves. Part of the reason why Texans fought for independence from Mexico decades before was because Mexico moved towards abolition in the 1820s.
While some people incorrectly think of Cinco de Mayo as Mexican Independence Day, it actually represents the Battle of Puebla in 1862, when the underdog Mexican army defeated the French. While Mexico didn’t win the war, that battle slowed the French army and struck a blow to Texas slaveholders and the confederacy (it should be noted that Black people also fought in that war alongside Mexicans). The holiday is celebrated in Puebla, but overall is celebrated much more in the U.S. than the rest of Mexico.
So why do we celebrate Cinco de Mayo in the U.S.? Because that surprise victory galvanized Mexican communities in northern California. Remember that California had just recently gone from being part of Mexico to the U.S. and Mexican communities were facing their own struggles with anglo settlers and considered slavery a threat to their rights as well. It became a celebration of the larger struggle for abolition and against colonial powers.
Now Cinco de Mayo has become appropriated as a day of heavy drinking, but we’re looking forward to celebrating and raising awareness of its origins next year. In that spirit, we’ll continue to share stories here of Black and brown solidarity in the fight for rights and liberation. Salud!
Credit to the artist: Artwork by Ernesto Quinonez Curiel, EQC Studios.