Posted on May 5, 2009

On 5/5, Mexican Dominance Irks Other Latinos

AP, May 5, 2009

With mariachis, tequila and parades, Cinco De Mayo will be celebrated this week in parties across the nation, kicking off a commemoration of Mexican heritage in the United States as a pseudo-holiday that has been adopted by the general population.

But for Dagoberto Reyes, a Salvadorian immigrant living in Los Angeles, May 5 is more a reminder of the dominance Mexican culture has in a country that is home to immigrants from many Latin American countries. His prime example: Los Angeles-area public schools.

“Our kids go to this school system, and the school system is more preoccupied with Mexico’s history, and not the rest of Latin America’s, much less El Salvador’s,” said Reyes, director of Casa de la Cultura, a Salvadorian community center. “They came back celebrating Cinco De Mayo. That holiday means nothing to us.”

It’s a popular misconception that Cinco de Mayo is Mexico’s Independence Day. The date actually celebrates the 1862 Battle of Puebla, in which Mexican forces stopped an invading French army. It’s a date barely celebrated in Mexico and not in any other Latin American country.

{snip} Mexican culture has been the dominant Latino force in the United States, often leaving other Latinos to adapt or resent.

It’s often as simple as commanding the dominant slang–for example, a jacket for Central Americans is “chaqueta,” but for Mexicans it is “chamarra”–but it can range to more overt hostility or competition in the work force, and it can spark worries of losing cultural identity.

Ignorance and apathy by Americans

Ignorance and apathy by Americans adds to the mix.

“Not many of them know their geography,” said Diego Martinez, who has had to explain to several people the island nation of the Dominican Republic is not located in Mexico. “I like Mexican food very much, but I’m Dominican.”

After Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean are the two regions that have sent the most Latin American immigrants. Salvadorians are the second-largest group of immigrants with more than 1 million.

This population difference can mean a struggle for immigrants vying for better position in American society and in the country’s economy, said Luis Guarnizo, a sociology professor with a focus on migration at the University of California, Davis.


‘Latinos look for other Latinos’

Immigrants seek connections to their homelands through music and other kinds of media, but in a place like Seattle, where the vast majority of Hispanics are Mexican, radio stations play Mexican music and television news is tailored to Mexican interests, said Jaime Mendez, who anchors Seattle’s only Spanish-language newscast at the local Univision affiliate.


Focusing on differences within the Latino community is not productive, undermines wider efforts and paints a broad brush over a complex issue, said Beatriz Cortez, coordinator for the Central American Studies program at California State University-Northridge.

The immigration debate of the past couple of years, Cortez added, has also galvanized Hispanics to group together even more than before.

“It is important for each group to have its own space, as we do here in the Central American program, to construct the way we’re portrayed. But at the same time, we’re forming alliances,” Cortez said.