WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden marked Cinco de Mayo on Thursday by honoring the impact that Mexican Americans and other immigrant communities have had in the United States as he hosted a White House party with Mexico’s first lady as the guest of honor.
Beatriz Gutiérrez Müller, wife of Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, joined Biden and first lady Jill Biden for the Rose Garden reception that featured tables draped in orange, blue, lime-green and other party colors.
“We are an immigrant nation. We say that, but people act like they don’t believe it,” said Biden who briefly left the podium to personally greet Gutiérrez Müller. “That is our strength.”
The president urged lawmakers to approve an immigration overhaul he sent to Congress his first week in office that remains stalled. He said that if that measure does not pass, action could still be taken on smaller initiatives that have bipartisan support, including protecting people brought to the United States illegally as children.
About 100 attendees ate steak tacos, pork tamales, empanadas, ceviche, jicama salad and watermelon, as well as chocolate-dipped churros. Margaritas on the rocks, beer and other drink options, were also served, as a chef mashed avocados for guacamole in a large molcajete.
The day marks Mexico’s triumph on May 5, 1862, over the French in the Battle of Puebla, where Mexican soldiers beat back Napoleon III’s forces despite being vastly outnumbered. Cinco de Mayo has become more popular in the United States than it is in much of Mexico. It gives Mexican Americans a chance to celebrate Mexican heritage, but the day also is heavily promoted for commercial purposes by beer and snack companies.
“Our relationship with Mexico is special,” Jill Biden said, adding, “Joe always says that politics is personal. And I’m grateful to continue building our friendship.”
U.S. presidents from both parties have tried to use Cinco de Mayo to celebrate the contributions of Mexican-Americans — a growing and powerful voting bloc.
The exception was President Donald Trump, whose centerpiece campaign promise before his 2016 election was vowing to wall off the entire U.S.-Mexico border. The 45th president didn’t attend Cinco de Mayo ceremonies, though he released statements, including one in 2018, that hailed “the significant contributions of Mexican Americans to the United States.”
Trump also tweeted about the holiday before being banned from the social media site. As a candidate in 2016, he wrote that “I love Hispanics” while lauding the taco bowls on the menu at the Trump Tower office building in Manhattan.
Last year, Biden commemorated the day by visiting a Washington taqueria that had benefited from Biden administration program to help eateries that lost business because of the coronavirus pandemic.