Why I Celebrate Cinco de Mayo
I’m not Latina, yet the Hispanic culture is part of my heritage. Many of my childhood friends were Hispanic, although we were not politically correct back then. We said they were Mexican.
My father worked for the railroad often working the Swingshift. The trainyard was in the heart of the Mexican neighborhood. Several times a week my mom and I went there to have dinner with him around 9pm. Sometimes he worked the Nightshift, which meant it was a 2am dinner. We’d have tacos or tamales.
The beautiful California Missions feel like my religious home. Most of my friends were raised Catholic; well, except for my Jewish boy friends. I’ve experienced many healings in and around those Missions.
I took Spanish in high school. I was in my second year of Spanish when my father died. Señor Chavez took me under his wing helping me through that horrible time. He let me slide on homework and asked me to get involved with a community project he ran.
His project was helping the VERY POOR in Duarte, CA. As the Vice President then President of the Future Nurses Club, I created a way for our club to gather food and clothing. We donated it to these families. I spent many hours several days a week with them for months. My Spanish improved – although you’d never know it now. (There’s a whole wonderful twist to this story that I’ll share at another time.)
Moving from Southern California to Northern California I lost a part of my heritage. I forgot my roots. I forgot the numerous trips my father would take us on to Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico when I was between the ages of 9 and 12.
My father had been laid off work for a while. During that time, he worked at a used car lot selling cars. I’d ride my bike the 2 miles after school to spend time with my dad. Then they “hired” me to wash cars and paid me for it.
When my dad was rehired by the railroad, he was able to purchase a used 1955 baby blue bathtub Porsche. Joining the Porsche Club, they had rallies and planned several trips a year to Ensenada. I was stuffed in the backseat of this small car, hunched over because the roof was so low.
Each trip I would find something I wanted and would purchase with my “carwash” money because I continued to work at the car lot washing cars.
One year I purchased a BIG sombrero, bongo drums, and maracas. Packing all of those into the backseat of the Porsche WITH ME was hilarious! Of course, that was the trip I got the sickest. We had to stop so many times! My dad had to pull over, we’d unload all this “crap” (excuse the language, but that’s what my dad said!) as we were on the side of the road, then I’d get out, throw up, get back in the car, drive 3 miles, then do it all again.
When I saw the “Cinco de Mayo” image with the sombrero and maracas, it brought back these delightful childhood memories – memories I haven’t thought about in decades.
I may not be Latina, but my heart and mind rejoice in my youthful memories of tacos and tamales on Cinco de Mayo with our Mexican friends and family. In honor of those wonderful days, I enjoyed tacos for dinner. Yet instead of the childhood Coke, tonight it was an adult beverage – a Margarita.