The Daily Agenda for Saturday, May 5

Jim Burroway

May 5th, 2012

Before my senior year in high school, I had the privilege of participating in a summer-long exchange program with a host family in the beautiful colonial city of Orizaba, Vera Cruz, Mexico. (Here’s the map, and here’s a street view of the family’s home, behind the gate. The second story has been added since I was there. But otherwise, how cool is Google maps?) Orizaba was best known for two things: 1) it lay at the base of the Pico de Orizaba, a dormant volcano which is Mexico’s tallest peak, and 2) it was the orignal home of Cervecería Moctezuma, the brewer of Dos Equis, Tres Equis, Superiór, Sol and Noche Buena brands of beer.

It was the experience of a lifetime, and I learned so much about Mexico that I never would have learned any other way. For example, one of the surprises for me was how popular mayonnaise was there. You never would have guessed it, but it was used quite a lot. Whenever you bought a torta (a kind of sandwich) from a street vendor, it often had huge globs of mayonnaise oozing out the sides. I was especially shocked when my “brothers” slathered mayonnaise on their corn-on-the-cobs one afternoon.

I bring that up because mayonnaise, it turns out, played an important role in Mexican history. It was during the French occupation under Emperor Maximilian when le mayonnaise was introduced in Mexico, and for the next few years the national craze was satisfied by ships from France which brought the sought-after condiment in barrels carefully packed in ice through the port of Vera Cruz. But in 1864, a fierce Atlantic storm sank a fleet of ships carrying a very large supply, sparking a severe national shortage that lasted for weeks. And so on this date every year since then, Mexico commemorates that tragic event with the holiday they call…

Wait for it…

El Sinko de Mayo. (*)

Okay, actually Cinco de Mayo commemorates the Mexican army’s surprise victory over French forces at the Battle of Puebla in 1862. The victory proved temporary. As French forces withdrew from Puebla towards Vera Cruz, they were able to contain the pursuing Mexican army at Orizaba a month later. Outside of the state of Puebla, it is not an official Mexican holiday. In fact, it is more widely celebrated in the United States than it is in Mexico. Many Mexican-Americans look to the holiday as a celebration of their cultural heritage, but for everyone else it’s an excuse for faux-Mexican restaurants to break out their cheap tchotchkes, recycle bad 1950’s stereotypes, and promote happy hour specials on Coronas, margaritas and appetizers. Olé!

Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Brussels, Belgium, Houston, TX (Black Pride); Norrköping, Sweden and Raleigh, NC.

Other Celebrations This Weekend: Hot Rodeo, Banning, CA; Boston LGBT Film Festival, Boston, MA; Purple Party, Dallas, TX; Frieberg International Gay Film Festival, Frieberg, Germany; and Miami Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, Miami, FL.

AIDS Walks This Weekend: Atlantic City/Asbury Park/Morristown/Newark/New Brunswick/Pennsauken/Ridgewood, NJ; Charlotte, NC; Ft. Wayne, IN; Orange County, CA; Poughkeepsie, NY; Portsmouth, NH and Raleigh, NC.

Marriage In Hawaii, Almost: 1993. In the case of Baehr v Lewin, Nina Baehr sued the state of Hawaii over the state’s refusal to issue her and her partner a marriage license. That refusal, according to their lawsuit, amounted to illegal discrimination. On May 5, 1992, the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled that her argument had merit. They didn’t rule Hawaii’s ban illegal, but remanded the case to a lower court, and placed the burden on the state to prove that it had a compelling interest under strict scrutiny for denying same-sex partners a marriage license.

The case would drag on for another six years with little doubt about where the state Supreme Court would go if the case made its way back there again. And so on 1998, voters approved Amendment 2 to the state constitution, which made Hawaii the first state to amend its constitution to address same-sex marriage. But unlike other state constitutional amendments that would follow, Hawaii’s Amendment 2 didn’t ban same-sex marriage outright. It granted Hawaii’s legislature the power to reserve marriage to opposite-sex couples, which it later did by passing a law that banned same-sex marriage.

In February of 2011, Hawaii’s governor signed into law a bill granting civil unions to the state’s same-sex couples. That law took effect on January 1, 2012.

Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin

Del Martin: 1921. In 1955, Martin and Phyllis Lyon, her lifelong partner, along with six other women, founded the Daughters of Bilitis, which became the first major lesbian organization in the United States. Phyllis edited the DOB’s newsletter The Ladder beginning in 1956, with Del contributing a groundbreaking essay in the very first edition. Del herself edited The Ladder from 1960 to 1962. The Daughters eventually disbanded in 1970 after having established chapters all across the United States.

In 1964, Del and Phyllis helped to found the Council on Religion and the Homosexual, bringing together national religious leaders and gay and lesbian activists for a national discussion of gay rights. Later, Del was heavily involved in getting the American Psychiatric Association to remove homosexuality from its list of mental disorders. In 2008, Del and Phyllis became the first same-sex couple to be married after the California’s Supreme Court ruling legalizing marriage equality. Del passed away two months later.

If you know of something that belongs on the agenda, please send it here. Don’t forget to include the basics: who, what, when, where, and URL (if available).

And feel free to consider this your open thread for the day. What’s happening in your world?

(*) Obviously, mayonnaise was not shipped from France to Mexico. But in 1978 they did sell the American brand Best Mayonaise in local stores. And I may have exaggerated its popularity, but it really is true that my “brothers” coated their corn-on-the-cobs with it. Totally grossed me out.


May 5th, 2012

“El Sinko de Mayo . . . . ”

Totally sneaked up on me. I’m still laughing.

Timothy Kincaid

May 5th, 2012

We Californians love that our little local holiday which we have been celebrating for 149 years is now enjoyed by so many others.

And Californian,as a free state, had good reason to celebrate. If the Puebla defenders had not held off the French, they would have established control over their “Mexican Empire” in time to support the South (it is argued that the goal of conquering Mexico was primarily to work towards breaking up the States).

But by the time the French established their brief empire, Gettysburg had happened and they were too late. It is not unreasonable to view Zaragoza as a defender of the Union, and Cinco de Mayo as an unquestionably Mexican-American holiday.

Indeed, it should be celebrated not only as a day to respect and enjoy Mexican heritage, but as a day to recognize how our two nations rely on and impact each other.

Jim Burroway

May 5th, 2012

I think it’s just so adorable how Californians think they invented everything! :-)

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