“Cinco de Mayo”

May 5th is the a day to remember the trials of Indigenous peoples on both sides of the border. One, the Battle of Puebla that ended the Franco-Mexican War in 1862, ended victoriously. The other, the national day of awareness for missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, and Two-Spirit people, is a battle still raging on. Luis J. Rodriguez expresses this tension within the Indigenous experience beautiful in his poem, “Cinco de Mayo”

Cinco de Mayo
by Luis J. Rodriguez

Cinco de Mayo celebrates a burning people,
those whose land is starved of blood,
civilizations which are no longer
holders of the night. We reconquer with our feet,
with our tongues, that dangerous language,
saying more of this world than the volumes
of textured and controlled words on a page.
We are the gentle rage; our hands hold
the stream of the earth, the flowers
of dead cities, the green of butterfly wings.

Cinco de Mayo is about the barefoot, the untooled,
the warriors of want who took on the greatest army
Europe ever mustered—and won.
I once saw a Mexican man stretched across
an upturned sidewalk
near Chicago’s 18th and Bishop one fifth of May day.
He brought up a near-empty bottle
to the withering sky and yelled out a grito
with the words: ¡Que viva Cinco de Mayo!
And I knew then what it meant—
what it meant for barefoot Zapoteca indigenas
in the Battle of Puebla and what it meant for me
there on 18th Street among los ancianos,
the moon-faced children and futureless youth
dodging the gunfire and careening battered cars,
and it brought me to that war
that never ends, the war Cinco de Mayo
was a battle of, that I keep fighting,
that we keep bleeding for, that war
against a servitude that a compa
on 18th Street knew all about
as he crawled inside a bottle of the meanest
Mexican spirits.

This poem was originally published online by The Poetry Foundation.

Share with a friend