Cinco parades are now a fixture in such diverse places as Detroit and Rupert, Idaho. In recent years, raucous parties celebrating May 5th near the University of Cincinnati campus forced police into riot gear amid fires and flipped-over cars.
Even in Fairbanks, Alaska the locals get a little wild and crazy. The North Pole Rotary Club celebrated Cinco de Mayo with their third annual community halibut feed. The menu included halibut, fries, salad, dessert and all of the fixings for halibut tacos.
Today, no one really cares much that Mexico defeated the French army in Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862 - even in Mexico. Most Mexicans look to September 15th as its national holiday, having won independence from Spain on 9/15/1810.
Despite several annual independence celebrations, Mexicans are still fighting for their freedom. A couple of weeks ago, they kicked off the Cinco holiday by sending 1.2 million protestors into the streets of Mexico City to condemn the political ouster of the Mexico City mayor on trumped-up charges. After one of the biggest protests in the countrys history, the popular mayor was allowed to return to office.
Often due to similar civic marches opposing their dictatorial policies, 10 South American leaders have been forced out of office since 1990. In that period, popular uprisings kicked out presidents in Bolivia, Peru, Argentina, Ecuador, and Haiti. According to the Christian Science Monitor, Chilean economist and pollster, Marta Lagos, maintains that this trend is a healthy one. People have an idea what real democracy is, and they know they dont have it quite yet.
How have the worlds people learned more of democracy over the past 15 years? Much of the credit should be chalked up to increased usage of cell phones, the Internet, and cable TV. For example, the protest in Mexico City was organized through email with concurrent marches in Rio de Janeiro, Madrid, Paris, and Los Angeles. Like most successful protests, they were all televised.
Then there is Iraq. This fledgling democracy flies in the face of the populist movements increasing around the world. There is no other way to sugarcoat it: Iraqs democracy was instituted at the point of a gun.
After the death of almost 1,600 American troops and a reported 100,000 Iraqi civilians, surveys indicate that Iraqs citizens are not happy with the U.S. presence or their newly installed government.
Part of the reason could be the increasing accusations of human rights abuses against Iraqi police officers and soldiers. As Iraqis take over more responsibility for patrolling their streets and fighting the insurgents, their inexperience and lack of training is apparent. Charges of abuse to prisoners include torture, murder, and arbitrary arrest by Iraqi security forces.
After suffering from Saddam Husseins henchman for decades, such abuses sound eerily familiar to Iraqis. Reportedly, many of Husseins former security forces are filling similar positions in the new Iraqi government. Sadly, even U.S. officials admit to continual shortcomings in their recruiting and training efforts.
As is the trend in Latin America and elsewhere in the world, would the people of Iraq have kicked out Saddam Hussein in due time on their own? We will never know.
A more timely concern is whether the eventual Iraqi government, induced by the U.S. invasion at huge cost and suffering, will be an improvement over the former Iraqi tyrant.
Lets hope so.