By Esther Milne
Three little words we’ve all managed to grasp in the Spanish language, ‘Cinco de Mayo.’ It’s the day when people all across the U.S. forget their own nationality and don a wide-brimmed sombrero hat or a brightly colored poncho, reach for the chips and salsa, and celebrate all things Mexican.
What happens on the seis de Mayo, when the fiesta is forgotten but maybe the Mariachi style music is still playing in your neighborhood while the construction workers are working from dawn to dusk? Or what about the Mama who’s running the same errands as you but is struggling to make herself understood in English? Are we still just as eager to celebrate the Latino culture when it interferes with our every day lives?
As Christians we are called to cross cultural lines just like Jesus did when he deliberately traveled through Samaria for a divine encounter with a desperate woman (read the story in John 4 v 1-26), and like the parable He told of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10 v 25-37). Just as the Good Samaritan acted with kindness and compassion toward the afflicted man, we are instructed to love and care for all those around us without distinction of color, creed, nationality or even religion. It all comes down to fulfilling the second most important commandment which is to love our neighbor as ourself.
Gaining a sense of understanding of another culture helps us to be more compassionate to both individuals and communities as a whole. For example, you may be surprised to know that Cinco de Mayo is not Mexican Independence Day, and while it has been widely commercialized in the U.S. (God bless those Mexican businesses), it is not celebrated in the most of Mexico. This spring time holiday commemorates Mexico’s victory over the French army at the Battle of Puebla in 1862 which was a significant triumph due to the strength of Mexico’s resistance. Mexico gained independence from Spain in 1821 and the whole country celebrates this special date on September 16th each year.
I have a heart that loves the Latino community. I spent years in school and university learning their language and studying the culture, and as a class of young students we all wanted to visit Latin America. I’ve been blessed to visit several different Latin American countries and my love for the people has grown from here.
When you don’t speak the same language, it can be more complicated to reach a specific group but there are little acts of kindness that can be understood in every tongue. As you open your heart to embrace other cultures and treat others with compassion, every day you’ll be taking steps to love others in the same way as Jesus.