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Culture: The Over-Commercialization of Cinco de Mayo


Happy Cinco de Mayo!

In case you haven’t lived under a rock, or aren’t hip to drinking tequila non-stop, welcome to America’s newest over-commercialized holiday.

In a country that has unofficial holidays such as Super Bowl Sunday and Sweetest Day, Cinco de Mayo fits the perfect criteria of giving Americans ANOTHER reason to consume alcohol and eat tons of Mexican food all to celebrate Mexico winning a battle against the French.


As a non-drinker and someone not of Hispanic origin, I am kind of new to what exactly Cinco de Mayo is and why it is celebrated in the United States. It was a few years ago, when I was living in Pittsburgh that I was first educated on the significance of May 5th, and the reason why everyone was celebrating a holiday, that I honestly didn’t know of.

Like all things in America, it’s about making money and consumer consumption of product.

According to MarketPlace.com via Nielsen, Americans bought more than $600 million worth of beer last year for Cinco de Mayo. That’s more beer than was sold for the Super Bowl or St. Patrick’s Day.

Couple that with big-name American companies and restaurants trying to tap into the growing Latino population in the form of serving up all the margaritas, pina coladas, avocados one can eat and drink and Americans have all but self-manufactured another “holiday” for them to celebrate, drink and eat to their hearts content.

Cinco de Mayo is the day were the sangria flows freely.

All of this over a small Mexican army defeating the French in a battle 154 years ago. Viva la France, right?

To many within the Hispanic community, Cinco de Mayo is more of a regional celebration, predominantly in the Southwest. According to Vinepair.com, the true meaning of what became “Cinco de Mayo” was due to a brilliant marketing campaign by Corona.

“While more Mexican Americans began celebrating the holiday as a way to embrace the connection between Mexican and American culture, most other American groups had no idea the holiday existed. But in 1989 the San Antonio based Gambrinus Group, who were the regional importers of Corona and Grupo Modelo, launched a Cinco de Mayo themed ad encouraging Mexican Americans already celebrating the holiday to make it a priority on this day to drink Mexican beer. The campaign took off.

What occurred in only eight short years was the holiday solidifying itself more as a time to drink Corona than a time to acknowledge the deep connection America and Mexico share. By 1996, consuming Corona as a way to celebrate Cinco de Mayo was the core way most people acknowledged the holiday’s existence, a huge victory for the Corona marketers. That year Gambrinus marketing manager Don Mann said, “Corona is the first thing that comes to mind when customers think Cinco de Mayo.”

Sadly, Cinco de Mayo’s true meaning would unfortunately become lost, and it’s cultural impact seemingly forgotten,

“As the holiday has grown in popularity, its connection to the original meaning has continued to weaken, while its excuse to party has drastically increased. Much of this has to do not only with the adept marketing of companies like Corona – who spend $1 on Cinco de Mayo promotions for every case of beer sold – but also the time of year in which the holiday falls.

Early May signifies the true start of spring in most of America, just as the weather is turning balmy and with Memorial Day almost four weeks away, many Americans are looking for any excuse they can get to be outside celebrating in the sunshine.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the difference in spend for Americans on a normal weekend compared to a holiday weekend can be as much as $500 million, so making a big deal out of Cinco de Mayo is good for business. Compound that on top of the fact that most Americans associate Mexican cuisine with warm weather, and you’ve got the perfect combination for an epic party.”

Based on the above, Cinco de Mayo is truly the first corporate “holiday” dedicated at exploiting it’s own demographic, while at the same time denigrating the history, it claims to celebrate.

True marketing genius there, right!

Next time you are out celebrating May 5th—which is not Mexico’s Day of Independence, which is actually September 16—as some tend to believe, be sure to know that you are not marking any type of freedom won in an obscure battle, but instead putting more money into the corporate coffers of companies like Corona in slowly and willingly being a pawn participating in America’s newest “holiday” excuse to drink and party in the middle of a work week instead.

Cheers!


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Robert D. Cobb
Founder, Publisher and CEO of INSCMagazine. Works have appeared and featured in places such as Forbes, Huffington Post, ESPN and NBC Sports to name a few. Follow me on Twitter at @RobCobb_INSC, email me at [email protected]