Follow Harriet on Twitter
Feliz Cinco de Mayo & Louder ARTS
Feliz Cinco de Mayo
First let me start with a brief description of this day. Being of Mexican heritage, I’ve had to explain it on a regular basis. So, I thought I’d just give a quick rambling, if only to say: This day is not just about margaritas and tortilla chips (although I find nothing wrong with either of those things and hope to partake in both shortly).
The first thing that I find myself reminding people of is this: Cinco de Mayo is NOT Mexico’s Independence Day (which is actually September 16th or midnight of the 15th depending one what you’re reading). Instead, it is in celebration of the day, May 5th, 1862, when 4,000 members of the Mexican Militia defeated 8,000 members of the French army in the town of Puebla. (Napoleon wanted to take over and install Maximilian as ruler of Mexico).
A year later Napoleon succeeded, and then of course they were ousted in 1867 with the “help” of the United States. But the thing that I find the most celebratory about the day is that it’s a day when the little guy overpowered the big guy. Our own Mexican story of David and Goliath. And if poetry identifies with anything it’s the little guy. The littlest of the littlest guy. The tiniest littlest guy or girl even. Like a cumquat. Poetry is like a cumquat battling a giant.
The second thing that you need to remember is that Octovio Paz is not the only Mexican poet. And there are many anthologies where you can read some beautiful Mexican poetry being written right now, as well as Chicano/a (I know that “o/a” was very Chicana Studies of me, no? Prof. would be proud) anthologies too. I’d list them all, but I’m doing this a bit on the fly.
Now, if I were you and was wondering how to celebrate today, I’d go and toast to poetry. And if I lived in New York, I’d do it by acknowledging the 10th anniversary of the Louder ARTS Project. Tonight at Bar 13 in New York City, featuring Thomas Sayers Ellis and Patricia Smith, Louder ARTS turns a whole 10 years old. The Louder Arts Project is an amazing group that keeps the love of language alive throughout the city. Also Louder ARTS helped to establish Acentos, a Latino reading series that is one of my favorite readings to attend in the city.
Feliz Cinco de Mayo, let us fiercely defend poetry to the end. Tiny cumquats though we may be.