If The French Had Won, Would We Still Drive Drunk on Cinco de Mayo?

battle of puebla A holiday is an echo of history. But for many, the holiday is more important than the history. Tomorrow, for example, we’ll find that many non-Mexicans will be quick to jump on Cinco de Mayo as an occasion to celebrate with drinking and socializing, without paying much attention to the holiday’s purpose.

Does it matter? Do you need to know that the French invaded Mexico in 1861 to try to establish an empire in the Southern Hemisphere? And that the next year the Mexican army defeated French forces three times the size at Puebla? That knowledge won’t make the Margaritas taste any better.

The point is that a national holiday has become an excuse to drink, and a drinking night turns into a drinking-and-driving night for too many people. For police, Cinco de Mayo is right up there with St. Patrick’s Day and New Year’s Eve, holidays which turn drunk drivers by the dozen out onto the streets in the wee hours.

don't drive drunk on cinco de mayoThere might be a few patriots in the crowd, but we get the impression that if the French had won, police would be sending out extra patrols for Cinq-de-Mai to catch revelers who didn’t much care about the day the French Empire got a foothold in Mexico, but who still made the bad decision to drink and drive.

If you want to commemorate Cinco de Mayo, be courageous and strategic, as the Mexican forces were that fateful day in May 155 years ago. Line up a designated driver, be vigilant if your friends overdo it, and make sure they get home safely too. The winners write the history, and the way to be a winner tomorrow night: don’t drive drunk on Cinco de Mayo.