Drowning our Misery with Cerveza this 5 de Mayo

May 5th, 2009 · 40 Comments

Every year right before 5 de Mayo, I find that I cannot turn on the radio without hearing about a celebration at a local club or bar, where people will be getting on their drinko for the cinco. Last year, I wrote a blog post about my experiences with this holiday as pertaining to some advocacy work I had been involved in with a group called Cinco de Mayo con Orgullo. Each year, I hope that the holiday will evolve away from the St. Patrick’s Day drunk fest that has become the tradition, but it seems less likely that will be happening, in part because of our community’s ties to the spirits and beer industry.

Last fall, a study from UT Austin’s School of Education and the University of Florida’s College of Medicine found that Latino students are exposed to more alcoholic beverage advertising than other students. Students attending schools with 20% or more Hispanic students see an average of seven times more alcoholic beverage  ads than students at schools with smaller Hispanic populations.

One of the study’s authors, Dr. Keryn Pasch stated, “According to previous studies, Hispanic youth are at higher risk for alcohol use than either white or African American youth. Exposure to alcohol advertising has been shown to increase alcohol use and intention to use alcohol, and marketers are aggressively capitalizing on the rapidly growing Hispanic population, targeting their marketing efforts at this group.”

Additionally, the study found that alcohol advertising is uniquely catered to specific ethnic groups. Alcohol consumption advertising near schools with 20% or more Hispanic students tends to use the culture of the neighborhood. So with Latino communities, you see more ads incorporating Mexican flags, sports heroes, and celebrities. These carefully crafted ads build brand recognition with young people, putting them at an increased risk for substance abuse from an early age.

According to the US Health and Human Services for people 12 years and older, Hispanics have a 10% rate of substance abuse, which is lower than Native Americans (19%), but higher than the rate for whites (9.2%) and African-Americans (9%). Substance abuse care providers have historically seen more substance abuse in acculturated Latinos than in those who are recent immigrants. However, they are now seeing more immigrants turning to alcohol and substance abuse in coping with difficult immigrant experiences. We have already seen an increase in violent crime targeting Latinos, and often alcohol accompanies these incidences.

So why do Latino civil rights organizations continue to take money from the alcohol industry given these dismal statistics? In large part, organizations like MALDEF, NCLR, and even LULAC are not grassroots in terms of their donor databases. In Los Angeles, the MALDEF office is in a building sponsored by Anheuser-Busch, as is evidenced by its wall signage. NCLR is corporate partner with Coors Brewing Company and Miller Brewing Company. LULAC’s corporate alliance partners include both Anheuser-Busch and Coors. These organizations have been built and bolstered by donations from the very companies who cleverly target our young people. MALDEF, NCLR, and LULAC provide a portal into our community and give tacit approval to sell to our captive and growing market. On its Corporate Relationship Opportunities page, NCLR even boasts of Latino buying power and growing disposable income, citing that we have more than $736 billion in purchasing power, and then explaining how corporations can help ensure the American Dream for Hispanic Americans by partnering with the organization. Oddly enough, NCLR has a health policy section on its website, which deals primarily with obesity and nutrition, but noticeably absent is any information about alcoholism.

While I’m hopeful that with enough awareness, people will start questioning the conventional wisdom of letting spirits and beer companies underwrite so many community events and programs, especially given the prevalence of alcohol advertising in our community. It certainly sends a mixed message to our youth about substance abuse when our civil rights organizations have to utilize ‘liquor loot’. This 5 de Mayo I will pause before I consume any alcoholic beverages or perhaps I won’t have any to more clearly commemorate the Battle of Puebla.

Photo Credit: MALDEF Los Angeles Offices lobby sign, Wendy Carrillo

Tags: Civil Rights · LULAC · MALDEF · National Council of La Raza · Substance Abuse and Latinos

40 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Víctor Manuel // May 5, 2009 at 10:15 am

    Very interesting post. It seems as if the very success of any holiday or commemoration depends on some sort of marketing and or commercialization opportunity. But this one is so closely linked with beer that it begs for these questions to be posed.

    We had a related guest blog post today:

    Don’t you Cinco-de-Mayo me!.

  • 2 Anna // May 5, 2009 at 10:22 am

    I agree with this post. We need to demand that MALDEF stop partnering with alcohol companies. That being said, more of us need to donate money to our own civil rights organizations so that they don’t have to rely on corporate sponsors.

  • 3 BettyM // May 5, 2009 at 10:44 am

    Very interesting article. I would bet that alcohol is the number one health problem among Hispanics. These companies target Hispanics because no one stops them.

  • 4 pablo // May 5, 2009 at 11:42 am

    Very Interesting.

  • 5 DelToro // May 5, 2009 at 11:56 am

    I would say with all the DUI deaths caused by latinos that alcohol is the number one health problem for anyone living in a large latino area.

  • 6 Elianne // May 5, 2009 at 12:19 pm

    I agree, it’s very saddening but not surprising to see what these organizations do, considering that has been the case since the inception of this “holiday”.

    It’s hard for the average consumer to see the truth about how they are being duped by the very organizations that are supposed to defend them.

    I just wrote a blog post about another aspect of this “celebration”: the more subliminal, stereotype-laden messages designed to keep us “in our place” as a culture.
    Check it out here:

  • 7 DelToro // May 5, 2009 at 4:32 pm

    Jesus you people live in your own world. And I suppose the stereotypes during St. Patty’s Day is to keep the Irish in “their place”? Oh no that wouldn’t be the case because the Irish are white. After 4 months of reading this blog it has become apparent that many on here have convinced themselves of “victim status” that is so popular these days. You all deserve the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the way they sell latinos out. You are part of the problem. Excuse me while I go and vomit now.

  • 8 Anna // May 5, 2009 at 4:53 pm

    The holiday is an issue, but if Cinco de Mayo were eliminated the alcohol problems would still be there. If it’s not alcohol, it’s too much food.

    People need to learn how to express their emotions instead of drowning them or stuffing them.

  • 9 jammer // May 6, 2009 at 10:03 am

    Del Toro leave yourself in the vomit where you and your assinine comments belong. I’ve tried to understand what you write and it is all vomit. What made you such a jerk? You blame all the problems of the world on Latinos. What caused your Latinophobia or are you an equal opportunity racist? On the matter at hand, people have been celebrating events, real or contrived, since time began and liquor sellers have been taking advantage of that fact to line their pockets. Unfortunatly we don’t get the message that uncontrolled drinking will lead to unwanted circumstances. I just don’t put myself in situations where the amatuers are out drinking. I prefer to celebrate at home with my family over a moderation of Great food and Fine libations. Wishing you had a sane and safe Cinco de Mayo.

  • 10 DaveinHackensack // May 6, 2009 at 2:16 pm

    A commenter on Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Atlantic blog asked where the Latino political bloggers were on the Sotomayor situation. Curious, I entered “Latino Politics” in Google and found your site. No comments here on Sotomayor’s potential candidacy for the Supreme Court? Is this because she is Puerto Rican and not Chicano?

  • 11 webmaster // May 6, 2009 at 3:30 pm


    This blog is run by busy people who have day jobs and other commitments. I haven’t had the time to blog about Sotomayor, in addition to other blogs that people have requested. I have been watching the debate unfold about her nomination though.

    We don’t only talk about Chicanos on this site. We have talked about other Latinos and other Latinos are welcome to chime in here.

    You might read this blog, written by a Latina about the Sotomayor buzz:

  • 12 DaveinHackensack // May 6, 2009 at 3:59 pm

    Thanks for that clarification and the link. Alisa Valdes writes well.

    If I may ask another question: Does La Raza advocate for Puerto Ricans and other Latinos or is it focused mainly on Chicanos? Are Puerto Ricans considered part of “the race”?

  • 13 webmaster // May 6, 2009 at 4:06 pm

    If by “La Raza,” you mean NCLR, the group led by Janet Murguia in DC, then it is my understanding that they do advocate for all Hispanics. I have heard that some feel that the organization is somewhat “Chicano-centric.” However, I do not speak for NCLR or its affiliates, and they certainly do not have a monopoly on the term “raza,” which could also be construed as “our people” or “our tribe” etc.

    Maybe you can find out more here:

  • 14 pablo // May 6, 2009 at 4:52 pm

    Way to go Jammer!

  • 15 DaveinHackensack // May 6, 2009 at 8:45 pm

    “If by “La Raza,” you mean NCLR”

    I was going by its mention in your blog’s banner, but, if I understand you correctly, you’re not affiliated with NCLR, and, your definition of “la raza” is inclusive of Hispanics including Puerto Ricans. Does it include Brazilians too?

    Thanks for the info, btw.

  • 16 Bearguez // May 6, 2009 at 8:49 pm

    National Council of La Raza claims to advocate for the entire Latin American community residing within the borders of the United States of America. But in reality they represent the interests of Wal-Mart, the Ford Foundation, and Citigroup by providing open windows into the Latin America community, assisting in marketing ploys aimed directly at the Latino community, and providing support to further exploit cheap labor provided by the Latino population at large. Like Anheuser-Busch’s MALDEF, the organization spends little of its budget promoting the rights of Latinos. Instead, these organizations function as social cliques, planning galas, paying high salaries, and funding self-serving enterprises. They neither emulate similar civil rights organizations such as the NAACP, the Urban League, or the Southern Poverty Law Center, nor do they strive to rectify their Third World self-serving approach. NCLR, or Anheuser-Busch’s MALDEF have had absolutely no affect on the ICE raids, key Latino political appointments in the Obama administration, Latin American foreign policy, or effectively reducing the number of hate crimes against Latinos. NCLR and Anheuser Busch’s MALDEF are only interested in collecting Corporate American monies, which fund galas, their salaries, and their side businesses.

  • 17 Michaelr // May 6, 2009 at 8:57 pm

    The content and dialogue discussed in this blog is way beyond the comprehension and understanding of those social cliques funded by Wal-Mart, the Ford Foundation, Citigroup and Anheuser-Busch. It should be obvious this blog is not affiliated with those enterprises.

  • 18 Anna // May 6, 2009 at 9:58 pm

    Maryland Labor Secretary Tapped to Head Civil Rights Division

    UPDATE (9:04 p.m.): Los Angeles County Supervisor Gloria Molina, who is a close friend of Thomas Saenz, says he was offered the AAG spot for the Civil Rights Division and accepted, but he was told on Thursday that the White House was going with [Tom] Perez instead. Molina accuses the White House of seeking to avoid a controversial nomination process, where immigration would figure prominently. “It was a political decision from the White House, because of Tom’s work on immigration rights,” she says.

    Before joining Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s staff in 2005, Saenz (Yale Law) was a top lawyer for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, where he handled cases over affirmative action, educational equity, employment discrimination, immigrants’ rights, language rights, and day laborers’ rights. Molina, who sits on MALDF’s board, says, “Our community needs advocacy, and for Tom to be treated in this kind of way speaks volumes of the lack of courage of the administration.”

    I agree.

  • 19 Alisa // May 7, 2009 at 8:36 am

    Great post, and much-needed. Thank you for doing it. Let’s hope things change.

  • 20 webmaster // May 7, 2009 at 8:36 am


    Tom Perez ran a pro-immigrant non-profit in Maryland. How can Molina and Villar say that just because their pal Tom Saenz was not picked that Tom Perez will not be committed to immigration reform?

    I suggest you read this about Tom Perez:

  • 21 Anna // May 7, 2009 at 10:22 am

    Molina and Villaraigosa said no such thing. The issue is not Perez.

    The issue is that the White House offered Saenz the job and then rescinded the offer because of Saenz’s legal work of behalf of civil rights for people whose basic humanity is under attack. If this kind of work is a disqualifier for serving in this administration, then Obama should say so.

    During the campaign, Obama said that he would address immigration and the issues surrounding it, but if he was willing to kick Saenz under the bus over an AGG position, it indicates that he will not fight for the larger issues of civil rights for Latinos (or anybody else). I don’t know why this is so shocking. All the evidence shows that Obama says one thing and does another, and that he is more than willing to appease Republicans rather than fight for an idea or a policy.

    I am watching to see if the feds file civil rights charges over the beating death of Luis Ramirez. I am also watching to see who Obama nominates for the Supreme Court.

    I also think that Obama would rather not appoint Mexican-Americans, and because of the broad Latino category, he can appoint somebody of another Hispanic nationality and pretend that Mexican-Americans are represented, even though we are not. We are actually underrepresented in this administration, even though he would not be in office without our votes.

  • 22 Anna // May 7, 2009 at 11:41 am

    “…Mr. Saenz, the former top litigator in Los Angeles for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, or Maldef, was privately offered the job in January. The floating of his name led to fierce outbursts from anti-immigrant groups and blogs, which detest him for being so good at what he does.

    He was a leader of the successful fight to block California’s Proposition 187, an unconstitutional effort to deny social services and schooling to illegal immigrants. He has defended Latino day laborers who were targets of misguided local crackdowns, from illegal police stings to unconstitutional anti-solicitation ordinances. An editorial in Investor’s Business Daily slimed Mr. Saenz by calling him “an open-borders extremist” and said Maldef wanted to give California back to Mexico.

    None of it was true, but it was apparently too much for the White House. Mr. Saenz was ditched in favor of Maryland’s labor secretary, Thomas Perez, who has a solid record but is not as closely tied to immigrant rights.

    Immigrant advocates are stuck with the sinking feeling that Mr. Obama’s supposed enthusiasm for immigration reform will wilt under pressure and heat. Representative Luis Gutiérrez of Illinois, a member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, found it sadly unsurprising that a lawyer could be rejected for the nation’s top civil-rights job because he had stood up for civil rights. “In what other position do you find that your life experience, your educational knowledge and commitment to an issue actually hurts you?” he asked.

    Mr. Obama may have avoided a nasty fight this time. But if he is ever going to win the battle to put 12 million illegal immigrants on a path to citizenship, he will to have to confront and dismantle the core restrictionist argument: that being an illegal immigrant is an unpardonable crime, one that strips away fundamental protections and forgives all manner of indecent treatment.

    The Constitution’s bedrock protections do not apply to just the native-born. The suffering that illegal immigrants endure — from raids to workplace exploitation to mistreatment in detention — is a civil-rights crisis. It cannot be left to fester while we wait for the big immigration bill that may or may not arrive under this president.

    Mr. Saenz would have been an ideal candidate to reaffirm values that have been lost in the poisoned immigration debate, had Mr. Obama dared to nominate him. “

  • 23 Michaelr // May 7, 2009 at 1:31 pm

    The fact that the Obama administration bypassed Thomas Saenz displays great intuition. Whether they determined that he was stained by political association or the usual character issues will be debated later. Since Perez and Saenz are both Spanish surnames, I wonder how you concluded he deserved the nod.

  • 24 theKaiser // May 7, 2009 at 1:53 pm

    That was an easy decision for the Obama Administration, Saenz worked for Anheuser Busch’s MALDEF and then aligned himself with Villaraigosa’s mayoral administration. Not very impressive career choices, especially if you’re marketing yourself as a civil rights advocate.

  • 25 DoctorH // May 7, 2009 at 2:02 pm

    Is this woman Tom Saenz’s publicist? Yeah yeah, he’s an attorney. But a civil rights activist who has put his life and ideals on the line for poor indigent people…hardly. The person you’re describing would never have gone to work for Villaraigosa. Villaraigosa is only interested in bagmen.

  • 26 Anna // May 7, 2009 at 5:52 pm

    It would be nice if you guys one day posted something fact based and intelligent. Instead we get nothing but expressions of your self hate. When the PA jury acquitted the killers of Luis Ramirez, Michaelr didn’t blame the jury. He blamed MALDEF. How sad.

    Thomas Saenz is a hero, and I commend him for his selfless work.

  • 27 Bearguez // May 7, 2009 at 8:44 pm

    There are very few heroes in politics. And Tom Saenz, the architect of Villaraigosa’s plan to take over the LAUSD, is not a hero. Obama made the right choice. You Anna are blind as well as dumb.

  • 28 theKaiser // May 7, 2009 at 9:20 pm

    Your facts are delusions Anna. Worshipping politicians is nearly as despicable as honoring prostitutes. Of course there are exceptions, but Tom Saenz and his buddy Villaraigosa are not in that group. You’re as misguided as DelToro.

  • 29 Anna // May 7, 2009 at 9:25 pm

    Coming from you that means nothing.

  • 30 Anna // May 8, 2009 at 11:56 am

    “There’s also this argument against Sotomayor for the first nomination: Obama will get another nominee. Why squander an Hispanic pick now, so far from the election and with such a solid majority of Democrats in the Senate? Save the Hispanic vote for closer to 2012, and after immigration reform has failed–when Hispanics need a bone.”

    Jan Crawford Greenburg, ABC News

  • 31 DelToro // May 8, 2009 at 12:29 pm


    I too have read much here and have tried to understand how blaming everyone but latinos is going to change anything.

  • 32 webmaster // May 8, 2009 at 2:07 pm


    I don’t know where you assume that we are blaming everyone except Latinos. Yes, Latinos need to assume responsibility for DUI, drinking excessively, etc., which is why some of us are asking MALDEF, NCLR, etc. to stop taking money from the alcohol industry. You come in here and start assuming what we think about the Irish and stereotypes, telling us that we live in our own world, etc.

    You don’t add anything substantive to the debate. You assume that the people here live in an “all brown world” without knowing who they are or the history or perspective that they bring. You are thisclose to being banned from this blog forever. This is your notice.

  • 33 pablo // May 9, 2009 at 7:23 am

    It would be nice if you could find if there is an ethnic or gender gap in DUI related accidents or deaths.

  • 34 Professor Y // May 11, 2009 at 7:58 pm

    Its greedy sociopaths selling risky behavior (drunkedness) and destruction (DUIs) guised as a holiday celebration.
    Any holiday (Cinco de Mayo, MLK Day, Super Bowl, Lakers playoff) will do!

  • 35 WhatThe.. // May 16, 2009 at 3:07 pm

    Asking MALDEF not to take money from the alchohol industry is like asking a the legislature not take Union money. Parasites need blood from their victim to exist, a symbiotic co-existence. They take only enough nourishment in order to exist but not to the extent of hurting their victim, because that would be asking for their own demise. The fact remains they cannot exist based soley on their own merits.

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