Imaginaire and Cinco De Mayo

During the course of the day yesterday, May 5th, I found it really interesting how many texts I got asking what I was doing for Cinco De Mayo. I am of a Mexican background, but I do not find it necessary celebrate the victory of the Mexican army over the French at the Battle of Puebla. Also amusing is the thought of most people, including those of Mexican heritage that the day is the celebration of Mexico’s independence. In past years it became a celebration of Mexican pride and heritage. In the past few years it has become like St. Patrick’s day is in the United States, of which most people are oblivious as to why it is celebrated, and is an excuse for bars to have special tequila prices and for people of any ethnic background who enjoy partying to become drunken fools. Don’t get me wrong, I went out drinking as well, but that had more to do with the fact that it was daylight, a Saturday, and I had money in my pocket than it was about my pride as a Mexican. This brought me to think about the ever growing recurrence of strong association with a particular “country of origin” with which individuals associate themselves with and form social groups around.

One of the best pieces of evidence for this arises from the supposed Italians on “Jersey Shore” and their permeating influence on “Italian pride” among the younger demographic who watches their show. Similarly those of even questionable levels of heritage to Irish, Greek, German, etc. backgrounds seem to strongly voice their personal association with these countries. I feel that much of this can be related to Appadurai’s work on globalization and his use of the idea of the “imaginaire” and the associated formulation with social groups. These social groups do not depend on constant interaction among group members nor is there strict requirements for entrance into the group. It merely requires the imagined, if you will, quality that makes up the group, such as one’s Italian background. This membership is voiced by displaying symbols of that country, often the flag, as well as the use of speech patterns that, in the individual’s area, is reflective of individuals of that cultural background. This is indicative of the recognition of group values and that other members of the group will be cognizant of their representation of their group membership which will thus determine how the individuals ability to maintain membership.

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