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TEXAS: May 5 in San Antonio
Last Sunday we posted an account of the fiesta in San Antonio celebrating the Battle of San Jacinto, or rather providing an opportunity for people to have a good time, happily ignorant of what they were really celebrating. Only a sober Mexican American seemed aware that it marked a Mexican defeat and that therefore should be observed in silence. Today, May 5, he is doubtless happy, since the day marks a Mexican victory. Many Tex-Mecs think it is Mexican independence day, but that is September 16. On both dates history is distorted to boost national pride. In fact, the loudly celebrated victory of the Mexicans over the French at Puebla did not mark the defeat of the French, who continued their march on to Mexico City and the conquest of the country. It is like the celebration of Mexican resistance at Vera Cruz and at Chapultepec, which did not stop the invading American army in 1847.
Mass in San Fernando cathedral in San Antonio, Texas, was an unusually colorful event, since the honored guests, including a dance team, were dressed up beautifully in traditional Mexican costumes. As usual, Father David Garcia gave the sermon, which consisted of two parts. In the first he drew on the gospels to explain the sex scandals which have shaken the Catholic Church and the faithful. While he was pained by the crisis, he was encouraged by parishioners who told him they had not lost their faith. Catholics often say the Church is a human institution, Father Garcia said the Church is a divine institution, it is the clergy who are human, just like everyone else. They are not worse, since statistics show that such scandals are the same in every group. Only the sins of the clergy have received such publicity.
Father Garcia devoted the second part of his sermon to the Cinco de Mayo, May 5. He got his history wrong. Like Mexicans, he celebrated it as a great victory over the French, adding that the Mexicans won thanks to the Virgin of Guadalupe and the faith of which he spoke in the first part of the sermon. (Too bad that the two gave them only an illusion of victory). Father Garcia went on to say that the day should be celebrated because Texas was part of Mexico at the time of the battle, which of course it was not. He made no mention of the fact that the French victory paved the way for the empire of Maximilian, which the Catholic Church supported. May 5 has become Mexico day in the US. President Bush gave a Mexican-style party to celebrate it (did he know what really happened on May 5?). American newspàpèrs ran supplements on Mexico. and mariachi bands were glorified.
The simplification of history also marked a C-Span joint interview with the ambassadors of Ecuador and Peru to Washington: Irma (or Ivonne?) a-Baki, a stunning blonde whose background I do not know, and Allan Wagner, whose name likewise is not typically Larin American. Both spoke excellent English, and they presented a picture of harmony between the two countries. When the interviewer asked them about their past disputes, they gave a sketchy account and declared that the two countries are now good neighbors. There was a reference to President Bush and his meeting in Lima with Andean leaders. Its main aim was clearly to create a solid bloc against the terrorism rampant in Colombia and dormant in the Andean countries represented at the Lima meeting.
Ronald Hilton - 5/5/02