If we are to believe Jimmy Kimmel’s man on the street interviews, it’s always astonishing what everyday Americans don’t know about America. Stranger yet, is what Americans don’t know about other countries. Most Americans don’t hold a passport and believe that all parts of the world aspire to be us and can’t believe that much of Europe thinks we’re are badly dressed fat people with excessive TV channels, a total lack of culture, and notoriously racist and violent. Of the 1/3 of Americans who hold a passport, most of those won’t ever use them. We are happy right here near a Walmart, with the safety of guns at our fingertips. So why is Cinco de Mayo so wildly popular? In a word: booze.
While Americans are pretty oblivious to and happy with our ethnocentrism, we also love a good party. Cinco de Mayo has now surpassed St. Patrick’s day in liquor sales. That’s a dubious honor considering the history of the Irish people. Google Cinco de Mayo and the history of it is and what it celebrates is pretty low on the first page, well beneath many recipes for various margaritas. The Americanization of the holiday is just another reason to get drunk, as if a regular old Tuesday wouldn’t do. It looks like we have tequila, tecate, Dos Equis, and Corona to thank for the wildly popular holiday. It’s easy to see what is really important by the sales of items on May, 4. Essentially, avocado and tequila sales spike. Let’s get drunk and have some guacamole to support our neighbors to the south! Well played liquor companies, yet another marketing masterpiece to spike the sales of your damage inducing product. Cinco de Mayo is the Olive Garden of holidays. It’s like a bad taco with ground beef and iceberg lettuce off the .99 menu at any number of Mexican fast food restaurants.
The media is awash with the typical “designate a driver” “use responsibly” and “buzzed driving is drunk driving” rhetoric all of which is a good reminder but is a reminder needed? Is there anyone out there who is defending the act of drinking and driving? What about all the other things that will go wrong tomorrow during the tequila soaked piñata fiesta? Alcohol use sees a rise in many things, among them, sexual assault and no where is this more true then on a college campus.
According to a Kent State study on college campus alcohol abuse, every year 500,000 students will have unprotected sex, more than 100,000 will be too intoxicated to know whether they consented to sexual intercourse and more then 70,000 students will experience alcohol related sexual assault. The reminders not to drink and drive don’t address this problem in any way. Holidays like Cinco de Mayo see a spike in all of the collateral damage with a rise in alcohol use. As a side note, guess who doesn’t pay a cent for all the wreckage? Alcohol companies.
I am often asked, “when is drinking a problem?” “when should I seek treatment?”. Questions of that nature. Holidays like Cinco de Mayo won’t give you the answer but they may provide some insight. Using things like fabricated holidays to rationalize excessive drinking isn’t diagnostic criteria but it may give pause to be honest about how important alcohol is to your life and what problems arise from it. The truth is, most people are better off without intoxication and the numbers don’t lie, alcohol is very dangerous stuff. I like to use this simple test “would I go if they didn’t have a bar”. My answer was always “no”. I’m going because I can get sloppy drunk and hide among all the other people getting sloppy drunk. I like guacamole and all but it’s not the guacamole that would be enough to get me out midweek. From a cultural level, Cinco de Mayo is a made up reason to get drunk. On an individual level, if one is making up reasons to get drunk, give me a call.