Here in LA, we celebrate Cinco de Mayo like no one else. Probably because Cinco de Mayo is actually an American created holiday, not a Mexican one. Back in the 1980s, when Hispanic-American immigration began to rise and Latino cultural pride began to be noticed, and Mexican-Americans were beginning to push for more rights, Mexican-Americans began celebrating a small victory of an outnumbered Mexican Army against the far greater French army during a battle in 1862. As this became a symbol for the Mexican-American rights movement, alcohol companies recognized the profitability as well and began marketing Cinco de Mayo heavily. And thus, the American fascination with “Cinco de Drinko” began.
Because of our strong Latino roots here in LA – and particularly the San Fernando Valley – we celebrate the holiday well. But before you put that sombrero on (and really, please don’t. The over-generalized caricature of a minority culture does not need to be pushed further) and out of respect for our San Fernando Valley Mexican Americans and other Latino cultures, let’s discuss a few ways to celebrate Cinco de Mayo without touching a bottle.
STAND IN SUPPORT
You don’t have to be a Mexican American or a Latino American to support immigration rights. Use your voice with lawmakers and attend marches to help bring awareness to immigration causes. In our current political climate, minorities can use as many allies that they can and by being empowered to speak up against racism and physically attend rallies or events it will require no more than a presence and a voice to help bring change.
DONATE TIME TO A CAUSE
Are you bilingual Spanish to English? Perhaps getting involved in translation is your cause. There is a critical need for volunteer translators across the board at many non-profits ranging from immigration reform to homeless shelters to helping children seeking asylum. Find something near and dear to your heart, and reach out to see if they can use your services. ImmDef’s Children’s Representation Project always has a critical need and can by email firstname.lastname@example.org or filling out the volunteer form on their website. Or try CARECEN, which helps people seeking citizenship to find answers on eligibility and fill out their forms. Contact volunteer@CARECEN-LA.org or fill out the volunteer intake form on their website to learn more. You can also see a full list of volunteer opportunities on their website. And if you are an immigrant looking to naturalize, CARECEN is hosting a citizenship workshop this Saturday.
And if you don’t speak Spanish, but have a law degree? You can still help. There is a dire need to help unaccompanied minors and refugee children with their deportation proceedings and cases. Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) is always looking for pro bono work to be done, and commitments are about 35-40 hours a year. Angelenos spend more time than that on their daily Starbucks run in a year. For information to help, email Michael Hagerty at email@example.com.
RUN AN ITEM DRIVE
There are a ton of organizations out there that actively seek out donations to help refugee communities and homeless populations, from clothing to hygiene products to food. Unaccompanied Central American Refugee Empowerment (UCARE) coalition provides aid for child refugees that are unaccompanied minors fleeing violence in Central America. There are many others for various minorities (like Miry’s List for the Syrian refugee population) or you can help gather items needed for homeless shelters and food kitchens which help homeless immigrant populations.
SUPPORT A BOND FUND
A bond fund help immigrants who have some sort of trauma that are here as refugees post a bond, allowing a child or adult fight their immigration case outside of detention and allowing for a more humane adjudication process. If you’d like to contribute to the Bond Fund, contributions help free someone and increase their chances of winning immigration relief so they can remain here in the US. Immigrant Defenders Law Clinic (ImmDef), is working to create these bond funds, which you can donate to here.
DONATE TO A CAUSE
If you’d rather support something bigger, try giving money to an organization doing advocacy work. There are a lot of great organizations doing great things. From the ACLU which help on a more national level, down to the more hyper focused Immigration Center for Women and Children, there are many organizations here in the San Fernando Valley and Greater Los Angeles Areas that you can give to direct. While there are many listed above, here’s a few more local branches doing work that you might want to consider as well:
If you’d like more information on the San Fernando Valley or Los Angeles, or to have help looking for your next home, please feel free to reach out! I’m happy to help, no obligation.