Tuesday, May 5, 2009

"Being Neighborly" by Jeff Holt

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. Today is Cinco de Mayo, a day of celebration in Mexico and for many Mexican-Americans here in the US. As President Obama pointed out from the White House yesterday, historically, it marks the day, in 1862, that a rag-tag Mexican Army defeated Napoleon III’s Army at the Battle of Puebla. The victory was a turning point that led to the eventual defeat of the French and ensured economic independence for Mexico.

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 world-wide 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 upon hard times, wouldn’t it be the neighborly thing to do for us to figure out some way to help our fellow Americans south of the boarder. 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 if there still wasn’t 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—Mexico’s big national holiday— by buying Mexican? So I’m proposing 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, buy some Mexican products at a Mexican Market, support a Mexican charity, and so forth. Just do something to lend a hand to our southern neighbors! Anything. Even by supporting businesses owned by Mexican-Americans it is highly likely that some of that money and goodwill will be exported to Mexico, as many Mexican-Americans send money to relatives back home. By doing this, in some small way can support our southern continental neighbors as they battle this new deadly enemy.

So what I’m proposing is that today we celebrate Cinco de Mayo by buying Mexican. Have a margarita, drink a Corona and let’s toast to our neighbors to the south.

If you don’t get a chance to buy Mexican today, do it tomorrow. I’m sure Mexico would be happy if we celebrated Cinco de Mayo on the Seis de Mayo too! So, Mis Amigos, Vaya con Dios!

My Name is Jeff Holt. I am an Associate Professor of Neuroscience at the University Of Virginia School Of Medicine.

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