About Cinco de Mayo

About Cinco de Mayo
David R. Kotok
Cumberland Advisors, May 3, 2014



The Cinco de Mayo (May 5) holiday is called “El Día de la Batalla de Puebla” or, in English, “The Day of the Battle of Puebla,” according to Wikipedia. In 22 seconds, you can track down the rest of the story with the help of Google and Wikipedia, the source of all knowledge in these most modern and enlightened times.

May 5 is also the Monday after the employment report and the Monday after the Fed meeting, which declared “no change “ in the market’s perception of what is to come. Maybe we should call it “Taper de Mayo.”

It is also after the incomplete GDP report (revisions coming) and after the personal income estimates and after the Dow Jones set a new high and after the weekly fear of rising interest rates and after a ferocious bond market rally and after the weekend worry over Mr. Putin and after the abduction of girls from a Nigerian school by the Boko Haram Islamic terrorists in northern Nigeria and after the State of Oregon closed its state healthcare exchange website after spending a quarter billion on a site through which not a single person was ultimately able to sign up (Dennis Gartman Letter hat tip) and after all the rest of the news that roils us.

On our TV, we see the possibility that there may actually be a narrowing in the presidential race for post-Obama 2017, with a Bush (Jeb) – Clinton (Hillary) contest in the making. We face the reality that divisiveness in Congress is likely to be perpetuated until 2017 since the House will remain under solid Republican control, while the Senate is likely to remain, by a narrow margin, under Democratic control.

And there are another hundred “ands,” including the narrowing of the federal deficit toward 2% of GDP. Who’d a thunk it five years ago?

On Cinco de Mayo we’re in Boston and scheduled to speak to IMCA, an organization of truly certified professionals in the money management business. So, we’re sending out this note two days earlier.

Boston – aka Bean Town (for the baked beans) or Scrod Town (for the fish) or Strong Town (for the marathon) – is the place where a tea party of long ago made the history books as a symbol of those who value American freedom. As I do. And I drink iced tea nearly every day.

We distinguish that history from today’s political Tea Party which includes some who are crazed and extreme.  Some are Koch Brothers-funded, righter-wing folks who like to win primary battles in the Republican Party.  The result is often that they lose general elections to Democrats. The Democrats rejoice every time a Tea Party candidate beats or even weakens an electable centrist Republican in a primary.

Oh well, this is America, the land of internecine squabbling and political suicide.  But it is still a great place and it still is desired by millions of people who would like to get in and stay in and make their home here and work here.  Our American fabric includes that part and it includes our willingness to project our values.  Isolationism is a domestic sentiment indicator but it can and often does lead to a threat against us.  Isolationism is rising in America.  We can use some additional national debate about the pros and the cons.

Let me close by offering another Cinco de Mayo in the spirit of the history of this famous date. It is inspired by the notion that our terrific and free country has a remarkable fabric of life and is capable of advancement with our freedoms intact. So please bear with me.

Bruce Sammut forwarded a note to me, containing a little-known story of Cinco de Mayo. Moved and intrigued, I researched the note, recalling my own military service in the 1960s and my father’s during World War II.  Also recalled are the many visits I’ve made to various European countries and especially those to American cemeteries in Europe to pay my respects. Many thanks to Bruce for sharing this story, which follows here:

About six miles from Maastricht, in the Netherlands, lay buried 8,301 American soldiers who died in “Operation Market Garden” in the battles to liberate Holland in the fall and winter of 1944-5. Every one of the men buried in the cemetery, as well as those in the Canadian and British military cemeteries, has been adopted by a Dutch family who minds the grave, decorates it, and keeps alive the memory of the soldier they have adopted. It is even the custom to keep a portrait of “their” American soldier in a place of honor in their home.

Annually, on “Liberation Day,” May 5 in Holland (other dates elsewhere), memorial services are held for “the men who died to liberate Holland.” The day concludes with a concert. The final piece is always “Il Silenzio,” a memorial piece commissioned by the Dutch and first played in 1965 on the 20th anniversary of Holland’s liberation. It has been the concluding piece of the memorial concert ever since.

Last year the soloist was a 13-year-old Dutch girl, Melissa Venema, backed by Andre Rieu and his orchestra (the Royal Orchestra of the Netherlands). This beautiful concert piece is based upon the original version of “Taps” and was composed by Italian composer Nino Rossi.

We suggest an interested viewer may want to go full-screen.


David R. Kotok, Chairman and Chief Investment Officer
Cumberland Advisors

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