Cinco de mayo – It’s Movement Time!

Volume 117, No. 5May, 2017

Cinco de Mayo is a cheerful holiday filled with margaritas, tacos and huge sombreros. In reality, 5 de mayo is an international day commemorating the Mexican Army’s victory over French forces at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862. The significance of Battle of Puebla became apparent for two main reasons: 1) although considerably outnumbered, the Mexicans defeated a better-equipped French army, and 2) no country in the Americas has been invaded by any other European military force ever since.

In Mexico, the battle’s remembrance continues to be mostly ceremonial. In the U.S. the date has become associated with the celebration of Mexican-American art and culture. While nowadays the 5 de mayo festivities may include copious amounts of Mexican spirits and authentic cuisine, it’s also a time to reflect on the Mexican-American rebels battling for social justice with music.

1) Zacharias Manuel “Zack” de la Rocha of Rage Against the Machine. Arguably the most groundbreaking, incendiary and politically-driven band, front-man de la Rocha became one of the most visible champions of human-rights causes around the world. He advocates in favor of Leonard Peltier and Mumia Abu-Jamal, and supports the Zapatista movement in Mexico. Zach de la Rocha admits that it’s impossible for him to draw the line between politics and music. The entire catalog of Rage Against the Machine was banned from radio airplay by President Bush after 9/11. And speaking of presidents, in the music video for “Sleep Now in the Fire” (at 1:04),  Rage Against the Machine predicts Trump’s rise to the White House. Here are the lyrics:

The world is my expense
The cost of my desire
Jesus blessed me with its future
And I protect it with fire
So raise your fists
And march around
Don’t dare take what you need
I’ll jail and bury those committed
And smother the rest in greed
Crawl with me into tomorrow
Or I’ll drag you to your grave
I’m deep inside your children
They’ll betray you in my name
Sleep now in the fire
The lie is my expense
The scope of my desire
The Party blessed me with its future
And I protect it with fire
I am the Niña, The Pinta,The Santa María
The noose and the rapist
And the fields overseer
The agents of orange
The priests of Hiroshima
The cost of my desire
Sleep now in the fire

2) Mexican alt-rock band Molotov is recognized for being vocal against the oppressive paternalism of the government. They’re widely known for their tongue-in-cheek, explicit, bilingual lyrics targeting corruption and social injustice on both sides of the border. Thanks to an incident with U.S. customs officials, the concept for the group’s most popular song “Frijolero” was born. It was later dedicated to Donald Trump:

Yo ya estoy hasta la madre
De que me pongan sombrero
Escucha entonces cuando digo
No me llames frijolero
Y aunque exista algún respeto
Y no metamos las narices
Nunca inflamos la moneda
Haciendo guerra a otros países
Te pagamos con petróleo
E intereses nuestra deuda
Mientras tanto no sabemos
Quien se queda con la feria
Aunque nos hagan la fama
De que somos vendedores
De la droga que sembramos
Ustedes son consumidores
Don’t call me gringo
You fuckin beaner
Stay on your side
Of that goddamn river
Don’t call me gringo
You beaner

No me digas beaner
Mr. puñetero
Te sacaré un susto
Por racista y culero
No me llames frijolero
Pinche gringo puñetero

Now I wish I had a dime
For every single time
I’ve gotten stared down
For being in the wrong side of town
And a rich man I’d be
If I had that kind of chips
Lately I wanna smack the mouths
Of these racists
Podrás imaginarte desde afuera,
Ser un mexicano cruzando la frontera
Pensando en tu familia mientras que pasas
Dejando todo lo que conoces atrás
Si tuvieras tú que esquivar las balas
De unos cuantos gringos rancheros
Las seguirás diciendo good for nothing wetback?
Si tuvieras tú que empezar de cero
Now why don’t you look down
To where your feet is planted
That u.s. soil that makes you take shit for granted
If not for santa ana, just to let you know
That where your feet are planted would be México

Don’t call me gringo
You fuckin beaner
Stay on your side
Of that goddamn river
Don’t call me gringo
You beaner
No me digas beaner
Mr. puñetero
Te sacaré un susto
Por racista y culero
No me llames frijolero
Pinche gringo puñetero

3) Las Cafeteras formed as a band with a mission of documenting the histories of their neighborhoods through music. They write songs about the struggles of Chicanos, Latinos and other oppressed communities: immigration, family separation, war, injustice and the hope for a better world. Their namesake derives from the organization where they took classes, the Eastside Café. However, to honor women and challenge masculine language, they feminized their group name by calling themselves, Las Cafeteras, rather than Los Cafeteros. In their hit “It’s Movement Time,” they clarify historical misinformation spread around:

Your history books got it all wrong,
so I come to you with a song.

In 1810, con el gran grito de pasión
se levantaron con razón
black and brown fighting together
on a day I’ll always remember

En el 5 de Mayo con el grito de gallo
black, white, and brown bleeding together
on a day I’ll always remember

Cos’ really it hasn’t been that long,
so just in case Kat Williams has you guessin’
let me kick y’all down with a little history lesson

In the 19th century
while the US promoted degradation and annihilation
with its military and US navy
Mexico got rid of the caste system,
voted for its first indigenous president
even getting rid of legalized slavery

The underground railroad also ran south
which led black folks to freedom
with Mexico right there to receive them

In 1910 it was Mexican men
with Pacho Villa and Zapata
fighting for tierra, libertad, y techo
with Adelitas on the front line
with bullets across their pecho

In the year 1946
it was the Mendez family that fought against segregation in schools
because before that, they treated us like fools
pushing us out into gangs, wars, and drugs
and then they get pissed off at us?

When we become Crips and Bloods,
Traviesos, Zoot Suiters, Pachucos, Futbolistas, Punks, Homeras,
Haraneras in the heat, haraneros with the bomb ass beat
talkin’ about what’s really goin’ on in the streets

In the 60s, in the streets of Oakland, California
Black Panthers organized for answers
young lords in New York fought against
the Stonewall rebellion remained true
for the rights of the LGBTQ
IM who was down for Native rights with no shame in their game
the brown berets
in LA learning how to fight and doing what’s right
In the Campos de California Filipinos
were the first ones to lay down the boycott
screaming in solidarity… “one rise, one fall you. you come for one you come for all.”

And Today Arizona and Alabama they don’t play
Coughing out racist laws like they are made out of clay
I stand with Emmet, Trayvon, Oscar, Bell
my mentor María up
in a cell
I’d rather be blind than stay quiet on a day
while my oeioke are hunt down like prey
My people
Because my ability to breathe is directly connected to my ability to see
its not about me
it never will be, it’s about we
its time to move ya’ll
My people
It’s movement time.

4) Los Tigres del Norte: The American norteño band has united all people across the Americas. Many of their most popular songs consist of tales or corridos about life, love and the struggle to survive. However, they don’t shy away from singing about narcotics and undocumented immigration. According to lead singer and songwriter Jorge Hernández, the first time a norteño group has ever written a gay love song was “Era Diferente,” which earned the band a Special Recognition Award at the 26th annual GLAAD Media Awards in 2015. In “Mis Dos Patrias” they make it clear there’s nothing wrong with loving different nations:

Raise your right hand
And repeat after me

“I pledge allegiance to the flag
Of the United States of America
And to the republic
For which it stands
One nation under god
Indivisible, with
Liberty and justice for all”

Congratulations, you are now all
American citizens

Para quién dice que yo soy
Un malinchista
Y que traiciono a mi bandera
Y mi nación
Para que rompa con mi canto
Las fronteras
Les voy abrir de par en par
Mi corazón
Deje las tumbas de mis padres
Mis abuelos
Llegue llorando a tierra
De anglosajón

Yo trabajaba, mis hijos
Iban creciendo
Todos nacieron bajo de esta
Gran nación
Y mis derechos los han ido pisoteando
Van formulando leyes
De constitución
Que haré ya viejo si me quitan
Mi dinero
Yo solo quiero mi seguro de pensión

Pero que importa si soy nuevo ciudadano
Sigo siendo mexicano como
El pulque y el nopal
Y mis hermanos centro
Y sudamericanos, caribeños
O cubanos traen la sangre
Tropical para que respeten los
Derechos de mi raza
Caben dos patrias en el mismo corazón

El juez se paro en la corte
La tarde del juramento
De mi corazón brotaba una
Lagrima salada que me quemaba por dentro
2 banderas me turbaban
Una verde, blanca y roja con
El águila estampada
La otra con su azul lleno
De estrellas, con sus rayas rojas y
Blancas grabadas, la bandera
De mis hijos que
Alegres me contemplaban
No me llamen traicionero
Que a mis dos patrias las quiero
En la mía deje a mis muertos
Aquí, aquí mis hijos nacieron
Por defender mis derechos
No puedo ser traicionero

Pero que importa si soy nuevo
Ciudadano etc.

5) Le Butcherettes: The all-girl band incorporates graphic elements such as raw meat and bloody aprons into their stage performances in reference to women being slaves. Front-woman Teresa Suárez adopted the stage name Teri Gender Bender as a feminist statement of the treatment of women in Mexico. The garage rock theatrics recall the obscene violence and the morbid history of Mexico’s fascination with death and sacrifice. In “Shave The Pride,” they express outrage and frustration against society’s unwillingness to view all perceptions of any given story delivered by mass media:

The pricks are grown;
Makes this place much colder
It gives us shivers
The way they shed snow
Trying to forget but we can’t much longer
The sight of anger breaks small ginger hopes
Old sores permit your scars to scare me senseless
Makes my spine increase with sudden panic
These problems started in our adolescence
The size of your rage drowns my urge for loving

Take a step back, take one step back
Take a step back
And shave that pride off
Take a second, open your mind, take a step back
And stop this madness

Animal hair is burned beneath young Moses
It gives me nausea the way the roots grow slowly
I always touch it but it’s making me meaner
The smell of it weakens all my unholy

You say you taste the frozen sorrow
Well we can feel your lack of información
I see the hunger, hate and love
It might not do us any good
It cannot do us any good

Small minds who feed
Suck three children to dirt
It gives us shivers
The way they shed blood
Trying to Forget
But we can’t much longer
The sight of anger breaks small ginger hopes

This is just a varied sampler of many more Mexican recording artists, lyricists and musicians who use their voice and platform to battle injustice, discrimination and oppression. One thing is clear, all these artists are sending a clear and present message: it’s movement time!