If people knew the politics behind their plates on Cinco De Mayo, they might choke.
While many enthusiastically enjoy the cheap beer, chips, salsa, margaritas and guacamole that have come to characterize Cinco de Mayo, the farmworkers responsible for helping to put that food on the table face debt-bondage and imprisonment — what activist groups like The Coalition of Immokale Workers (CIW) call modern-day slavery. These deplorable working conditions, plus the other food politics on our plates – everything from genetically modified foods to the agave concentration of tequila – shape each and every Cinco de Mayo celebration.
Creating change in the food industry is often a matter of awareness: – Smart consumers can support retailers and restaurants that are evolving their practices for greater sustainability; they can support the United Farmworkers Union, CIW, and other groups that advocate to improve wages and conditions for farmworkers; lastly, they can educate themselves with documentaries like Food Chains, and books like Tomatoland and How the Gringos Stole Tequila, all of which shed light on the problems with the food we eat and the beverages we drink.
This Cinco de Mayo, enjoy your chips, drinks, and happy hours. Just remember this: If the majority of our food was ethically sourced – both in terms of how it is produced and how we treat the workers harvesting the crops – we might all have a reason to celebrate.