Roybal-Allard, Lucille


Op-ed: On Cinco de Mayo, Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard Cautions Our Nation's Youth About the Dangers of Turning the Cultural Celebration into "Cinco de Drinko."

Washington, May 3, 2005 -

 This week's Cinco de Mayo celebrations will take many forms, including educational programs in our schools, community events, and parties.  Many of the parties are wonderful celebrations of our Mexican culture that highlight the many contributions we of Mexican descent have made to our great nation.  As a mother, a grandmother, and a Member of Congress, I am proud of my family's Mexican heritage.  However, I am deeply disturbed by the way Cinco de Mayo is often transformed by the alcohol industry into "Cinco de Drinko" -- a holiday that serves less as an expression of ethnic pride than an excuse to drink alcohol.

All too often, Cinco de Mayo celebrations are hijacked by the alcohol industry and exploited as a means of increasing sales of beer and hard liquor.  Alcohol advertisers promote Cinco de Mayo celebrations as a reason to drink.  This message poses serious dangers to the health of the Latino community, especially our children.

Even more disturbing is the fact that the alcohol industry's Cinco de Mayo advertisements appear to be a part of a larger pattern of targeting our nation's young people in general and Latino youth in particular.  The Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth at Georgetown University found that Latino kids are dangerously overexposed to advertisements for alcoholic beverages. The Center's research reveals that the voices of Latino parents - teaching caution and responsibility - are too often drowned out by the sheer number of alcohol advertisements our young people see and hear.

The study found that in 2002, alcohol advertisers spent more than $18 million to place ads on 12 of the 15 television programs most popular with Latino youth, including:  Vias Del Amor, Ver Para Creer, That 70's Show, and MadTV.  The study also found that Latino youth saw nearly a quarter more magazine ads for beer and ale than other children.

The marketing of alcohol to our kids is especially worrisome because underage drinking is a serious public health problem that jeopardizes the future of our children.  For example, studies have shown that 7,000 kids will take their first alcoholic drink today, and those who drink alcohol are 22 times more likely to use marijuana than kids who don't drink and 50 times more likely to use cocaine.  Young people who begin drinking before age 15 are four times more likely to develop alcohol dependence than those who begin drinking after 21 years of age.

These findings are of particular concern to Latino parents because, according to a study by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Latinos are more likely to drink and get drunk at an earlier age than non-Hispanic white and African-American youth.  Tragically, the results of underage drinking are often deadly. Among Latinos ages 12 to 20, alcohol use contributes to the three leading causes of death:  homicides, suicides, and unintentional injuries, such as car crashes.

These startling statistics underscore the fact that Latinos, and parents everywhere, cannot sit idly by and allow the well-being of our children to be jeopardized by the irresponsible advertising practices of the alcohol industry.

The holiday of Cinco de Mayo provides us with a wonderful opportunity to denounce the exploitation of Cinco de Mayo by the alcohol industry and to reclaim it as a traditional family celebration of cultural pride.


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