Jeff Holt, an associate professor of neuroscience at the University of Virginia School of Medicine, proposes "buying Mexican" on Cinco de Mayo.
I don't really consider myself a community activist, but I had an idea I thought I'd share with you because it seems particularly timely. Tuesday is Cinco de Mayo, a day of celebration in parts of Mexico and for many Mexican-Americans here in the U.S.
Historically, it marks the day in 1862 when a ragtag Mexican army defeated Napoleon III's army at the Battle of Puebla. It was a key victory as Mexico fought to ensure its economic independence.
Today, we are all aware that Mexico is facing another historic battle: The enemy this time is the swine flu. Our neighbors to the south have suffered both human and economic loss due to the recent outbreak. Businesses, restaurants, travel, tourism, economic activities of all forms, have been significantly curtailed since the outbreak began. Swine flu is taking a tremendous economic toll in a country already faced with the worldwide economic challenges of the Great Recession.
We share our North American continent with only a few other countries, and as such, we are all Americans. It occurred to me that since our southern neighbors have fallen on hard times, wouldn't it be neighborly of us to figure out some way to help our fellow Americans south of the border? Shouldn't we send them our neighborly best in this, their time of extraordinary need?
But how can we do this? Travel to Mexico has been restricted because of the current threat, yet I couldn't help but wonder whether there was still some way to lend a hand — something simple yet meaningful that we Americans can do. Then it occurred to me: Why not help celebrate Cinco de Mayo by buying Mexican?
So I propose that we look beyond our own economic woes for a moment, suspend the current "buy American" campaign for just one day, and instead, for Cinco de Mayo, we all buy Mexican!
Eat at a Mexican-owned restaurant, make some purchases at a Mexican market, support a Mexican charity and so forth. Just do something — anything! — to lend a hand to our southern neighbors! It is likely that by supporting businesses owned by Mexican-Americans, some of that money and goodwill will be exported to Mexico, as many Mexican-Americans send money to relatives back home.
So, rather than just raising a glass to our neighbors to the south, buy Mexican — on Cinco de Mayo or any day. By doing this, in some small way, we can support our southern continental neighbors as they battle this new deadly enemy.
Jeff Holt is an associate professor of neuroscience at the University Of Virginia School Of Medicine. This piece was provided by NPR member station WMRA in Harrisonburg, Va.