Monday, May 05, 2008

Quien es su papi, Francés?

As I drove home over the Marquam Bridge today I caught a glimpse of the revelry in the Fun Center, or whatever they're calling it this year, in the Waterfront Park for Portland's annual Cinco de Mayo celebration.

I love Cinco de Mayo for the very American-ness of a hoked-up "Mexican holiday" (not really much celebrated in Mexico) designed to get Americans to drink Jose' Cuervo and lime and pretend to be ethnic. Call it Sancto Paddy's Day, or whatever comic costume party occasion you want. It's silly, it's dressing up in made-in-China serapes and straw sombreros, it's as American as apple pie, landgrabbing and politicians kissing babies.

One CdM Mojo and I (pre-Peeper) stopped at a Mexican place and asked the clever-looking hostess if she knew the reason for the season - she got the country Mexico humiliated right (France) but the reason wrong (independance) - common mistake. The original Cinco de Mayo - the Battle of Puebla - is actually a kind of a hoot; an ad hoc expeditionary task force of French regulars commanded by an officer who comes off as one of history's prize fucktards, Charles Ferdinand Latrille, Comte de Lorencez, who insisted on trying to force a strongly entrenched artillery-supported Mexican infantry divison and got handed his ass. Not a decisive battle, or even a major one, the Compte de Dummy's troops made it off the field in good order and the battle was just the beginning, not the ending, of the fight for Mexican freedom against the French. But the whole dopey battle points up the comic opera silliness of the Maximilian enterprise, a moderately ridiculous heroic (OK, Mexican heroism aided by a stiff draught of French watch-me-bruise-your-fist-with-my-skull-ism) episode in Mexican history which, like all histories, has more than its' share of ridiculous episodes (I personally enjoy the one where Guadelupe Gonzalez "Pili" del Pino, the squeeze of Francisco "Frankie" Bocanegra, poet and boyfriend, locks her papi in the spare bedroom with smokin' hot pictures of Mexican heroism to force him to win the "write the Mexican National Anthem contest". Seriously, that's how it happened. I shit you not.)

The other thing that comes to mind is my wall-building crew, puro Mexicano one and all. These guys, like every Mexican citizen or naturalized American of Mexican origin I've ever met, worked like there was he devil to pay and no pitch hot. How the damn nortemaericano stereotype of the sleeping Mexican under his cactus came about I have no idea.

But whoever came up with it must not have known, like, any actual Mexicans.

The old "lazy Mexican" canard always reminds me of the joke that begins with Jim Bowie and Bll Travis hunkered down over the wall of the Alamo watching Santa Anna's troops massing for the final attack.

"Y'know what it means iffn' them people get in here, dontcha, Jim?" says Travis.

Bowie spits over the parapet and nods.

"Yep." he growls, "Goddam if the sumbitches won't have the whole frickin' place sheetrocked inside of two hours."

Well. Anyway, I hope you had a margarita or three today in memory of the heroic zapadores of Puebla! Come and get some, Frenchie - who's yer daddy!


Fasteddiez said...


I have another classic from the Alamo.
Q-Why did Santa Ana only bring 2000 soldados to the fight in San Antone?

A-Because he only had four 1971 Ford Torino station wagons for transport.

PS. It helps to have lived in Tejas in the late seventies to savor this tidbit the mostest.

Big Daddy said...

Personally, my favorite Franco/Mexican fracas is Battle of Camarón on April 30 1863, the holy day of the French Foreign Legion. The French lost this mini-Alamo but they impressed the Mexicans so much that they returned Captain D'Anjou's wooden hand with full military honors.