As we approach the vibrant and significant celebration of Cinco de Mayo, SER Jobs for Progress National, Inc. (SER National) stands proud to honor the spirit of resilience and triumph that defines the American workforce. This auspicious occasion allows us to reflect upon the historical account that gave birth to this day, drawing powerful parallels to the undaunted spirit of American workers who have weathered the storms of economic challenges, especially in the new post-pandemic world.

Cinco de Mayo finds its roots in the audacious decision made by Mexican President Benito Juárez in 1861. Faced with a nation ravaged by civil war and financial ruin, Juárez suspended payment of foreign debts to the United Kingdom, Spain, and France. While the first two nations swiftly reached agreements for repayment and withdrew their warships, the French, under Emperor Napoleon III, had other intentions. They aspired to conquer Mexico and establish a pro-French monarchy.

In a remarkable turn of events, an elite French military force encountered an unexpected obstacle on May 5, 1862, in Puebla, led by the valiant Texas-born General Ignacio Zaragoza. Against all odds, Zaragoza and his ragtag army overcame the superior French forces, halting their advance toward Mexico City. Though the victory only postponed the inevitable French conquest, it served as a significant morale boost for a nation desperate for hope and inspiration.

Similarly, the American workforce has faced its own uphill battle, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic. The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities reports that prime-age workers’ labor force participation rate surpassed its pre-pandemic levels in March 2023, reaching 83.1 percent, higher than any month from May 2010 to December 2018. This remarkable feat speaks volumes about American workers’ relentless determination and resilience.

Ignacio Salazar, President and CEO of SER National, reflects on this journey and states, “The triumphs and challenges faced by American workers echo the spirit of Cinco de Mayo. Just as General Zaragoza’s victory provided hope for a beleaguered nation, American workers’ resilience, and unwavering spirit have brought us closer to a brighter future.”

We must acknowledge American workers’ immense sacrifices and efforts to rebuild their lives and communities in this new era. The pandemic brought unprecedented challenges, and the economic fallout disproportionately affected communities of color. Unemployment rates surged across all racial and ethnic groups in April 2020, with Latino and Black workers bearing the brunt, experiencing unemployment rates of 18.8 percent and 16.6 percent, respectively.

Yet, as we emerged from the darkness, federal relief and recovery legislation, combined with the reopening of the economy and effective virus containment measures, spurred a resurgence in job growth. By the end of 2021, unemployment rates for Latino, Black, and white workers had steadily declined, approaching pre-pandemic levels. However, disparities persist, with Black and Latino unemployment rates still higher than their white counterparts.

Salazar further emphasizes, “We must continue our collective efforts to ensure equity and opportunity for all. By addressing the systemic barriers perpetuating disparities, we can forge a future where all workers, regardless of background, can thrive and contribute to a prosperous nation.”

As we celebrate Cinco de Mayo, let us remember the lessons from history and honor the indomitable spirit of American workers. Together, we can create a future where diversity is celebrated, where the tireless efforts of every worker are recognized and rewarded, and economic challenges are met with resilience and determination.

We see a future where the strength and unity of the American workforce will prevail. It is a future where everyone has equal access to opportunities and resources regardless of race or ethnicity. We strive for a future where the disparities that persist today are eliminated, and the American dream is within reach for all.

We must advocate for policies promoting inclusivity, fairness, and equal opportunity to achieve this future. We must invest in education and job training programs that empower workers with the skills to thrive in the evolving economy. By fostering innovation, entrepreneurship, and small business growth, we can create new avenues for economic advancement and reduce the wealth gap.

In the spirit of Cinco de Mayo, let us draw inspiration from the courageous actions of General Ignacio Zaragoza and his army. They faced an overwhelmingly powerful adversary but emerged victorious through determination and unwavering resolve. Similarly, American workers have shown time and time again that they possess the strength and resilience to overcome any obstacle.

As we commemorate Cinco de Mayo, we honor the sacrifices made by our ancestors and pay tribute to the fortitude of American workers. We celebrate their unwavering spirit and commitment to building a better future for themselves, their families, and their communities.

On behalf of SER National, we extend our deepest gratitude to the American workforce for their relentless dedication and tireless efforts. We stand with you, shoulder to shoulder, as we navigate the challenges of a post-pandemic world and work towards a future where every worker can thrive.

Let us forge a path of resilience, triumph, and unity together. Happy Cinco de Mayo!