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The Coolest Things To Do In L.A. For Cinco De Mayo 2017

Photo courtesy of Casa Vega on Facebook
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Contrary to popular belief, Cinco de Mayo is not actually Mexican Independence Day (that's September 16), and it's virtually ignored in Mexico. The celebration commemorates an unlikely 1862 military victory over France, and was largely popularized as we know it today through boozy marketing campaigns.

"The corporate marketplace started pushing Cinco de Mayo as a day-long happy hour for downing cervezas and margaritas when it recognized the demographic growth of the Latino population in the 1980s...Beer and alcohol companies led the charge by spending millions on marketing the holiday," according to CSU Channel Islands Chicano studies professor Jose Alamillo. The Mexican-American scholar, who was born in Zacatecas, Mexico, and moved to the U.S. when he was eight, didn't actually learn about Cinco de Mayo until he arrived in an American elementary school classroom.

Americans often celebrate as "Cinco de Drinko" with tequila, sombreros, fake Mexican accents, shouts of ole! and eventual public apologies after crossing the line between "celebrating Mexican culture" and offensive ethnic stereotypes. We love margaritas, day drinking and tacos as much as the next Angeleno (a lot!), but we'd also like to offer some alternate ways to celebrate Cinco de Mayo in 2017.

Do you really love Mexican culture and its relationship to the great city of Los Angeles? Drinking margaritas is one cool mode of showing your appreciation, but finding ways to support all the city's immigrant and undocumented communities—especially during this particularly fraught moment in history—is another really cool way to show your respect and admiration!

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Here, in no particular order, are some concrete things you can do to support immigrant and undocumented communities in Los Angeles, on Cinco de Mayo and beyond. Entries marked with an asterisk (*) do not require any Spanish language skills.

Support a Bond Fund*

Immigrant Defenders Law Clinic (ImmDef), a nonprofit doing invaluable work here in L.A., is working to create a "Bond Fund," which will be used to post the bonds necessary to release their clients from immigrant detention. Nearly all of their clients have suffered some sort of trauma and fled their country of origin to come here for safety and refuge. Detention exacerbates and prolongs the trauma they have suffered. Posting a bond allows a child or adult immigrant to fight their immigration case outside of detention and allows them to undergo a more humane adjudication process. By contributing to the Bond Fund, individuals can be assured that their donations will help free someone and help increase their chances of winning immigration relief so that they can remain in the United States lawfully. You can donate here.

Volunteer As A Translator For Children Seeking Asylum

Are you, like many Angelenos, a bilingual English/Spanish speaker? ImmDef's Children's Representation Project has a critical need for bilingual Spanish/English-speaking volunteer interpreters to accompany them during their children's asylum interviews at the Anaheim Asylum Office and interpret on their young clients' behalf. The volunteers do not need to be a court certified translator or have a degree or background in interpretation services. They do need to be fluent in both Spanish and English. They would need to accompany ImmDef attorneys to the asylum interview which takes places at the immigration office in Anaheim located across from Disneyland. They will be needed for the entire interview and can expect to be at the Anaheim Asylum office for three to four hours. Interested parties can email or fill out the volunteer form on their website.

Conduct Mock Citizenship Interviews*

The Central American Resource Center (CARECEN) empowers immigrants and Central Americans by defending human and civil rights, working for social and economic justice and promoting cultural diversity. CARECEN needs volunteers to help with two different kinds of citizenship efforts, and one of those opportunities doesn't require any Spanish knowledge. CARECEN is looking for English speakers to conduct mock interviews with people in their citizenship classes to help them prepare for the questions that will be asked. The citizenship classes are held daily at CARECEN from Monday through Saturday, so this could also be a good opportunity for someone who works a 9-to-5 during the week and wants to be able to assist on a Saturday. Contact or fill out the volunteer intake form on their website to learn more.

Help Citizenship Seekers Fill Out Their Naturalization Forms

CARECEN is also looking for people (must be able to speak Spanish) to volunteer at their twice-monthly citizenship events and help individuals fill out their naturalization form. The events are held on Saturdays, and volunteers will be trained in the morning beforehand. Contact 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.

Take On A Pro Bono Case*

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Are you a lawyer? Do you wish your day was less soul-sucking? Well, how about taking on a pro bono case representing an unaccompanied immigrant or refugee child facing deportation proceedings? Sounds pretty fulfilling, right! Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) is seeking lawyers of all kinds to take on pro bono cases. You don't need to know anything about immigration law, and you'll be mentored through every step of the process. According to Michael Hagerty, a pro bono coordinating attorney at KIND, an average case will take about 30 to 45 hours of work throughout its duration, typically over the span of a year or so. No Spanish skills are required. Interested parties should email Michael at ImmDef also takes pro bono attorneys, and you can learn more about what kind of cases they do here. Contact ImmDef staff attorney Kayleen Hartman at to get involved.

Host An Item Drive For Central American Unaccompanied Minors*

Interfaith nonprofit Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice (CLUE-LA)'s Unaccompanied Central American Refugee Empowerment (UCARE) coalition provides resources and aid for child refugees who arrive in Los Angeles as unaccompanied minors after fleeing violence in Central America. You can host an item drive or help raise funds for Central American refugee children living in Los Angeles through UCARE. Contact Guillermo Torres of CLUE-LA at to get involved and learn more.

Give Money To Organizations Doing Advocacy Work*

This is such an easy one! And we know, you already donated to the ACLU (me too, love you guys!), but there are a lot of other great, smaller organizations that also need your support now more than ever. Here are a few places where you can financially support advocacy for L.A.'s immigrant and undocumented communities:

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