Cinco de Mayo! (“Fifth of May”) – the most widely celebrated Mexican holiday in the United States. Most people associate this day with tacos, tequila, sombreros, and serapes. Cinco de Mayo means “Fiesta Time”!
This holiday is worthy of praise, but the reality is that here in the United States, celebrating this holiday is simply another excuse to have fun, drink booze, and party. Sadly, there is a lack of knowledge about what this holiday really is.
If we all took the time to learn and better understand this holiday and any other holiday for that matter, I think we would all have a greater appreciation and respect for what we’re celebrating.
First things first!
Cinco de Mayo is NOT Mexico’s Independence Day! (Read more about Mexico’s Independence Day here). However, it is still an important day that should be celebrated…let’s just not confuse the dates.
Cinco de Mayo commemorates the Mexican Army’s victory over the French Empire at La Batalla de Puebla (Battle of Puebla), on May 5th, 1862. This army was led by General Ignacio Zaragoza.
The Battle of Puebla was significant for several reasons. Firstly, “The 4,000 Mexican soldiers were greatly outnumbered by the well-equipped French army of 8,000 that had not been defeated for almost 50 years.” Secondly, “Historian Justo Sierra has suggested that had Mexico not defeated the French in Puebla on May 5, 1862, France would have gone to the aid of the Confederate States of America in the American Civil War and the United States’ destiny would have been different.” Definitely, something we don’t hear enough about.
It truly is a fascinating story, one of strength and resilience by the Mexican people.
Cinco de Mayo in Mexico vs. United States
Cinco de Mayo’s biggest fiestas happen in the state of Puebla, where the famous battle occurred. For the most part though, Mexico does NOT celebrate this holiday as the United States does.
Cinco de Mayo celebrations in the United States began as early as 1863, as an expression of solidarity with Mexico against the French. These celebrations were later revived by Chicano activists in the 1960s as a call to solidarity for civil rights. It was a celebration of Mexican culture and heritage.
Throughout the years, this holiday has been extremely commercialized to mainly benefit liquor companies. According to National Today, Cinco de Mayo is one of the most profitable holidays outside of Christmas. An estimated $600 million worth of beer is sold and 127 million liters of tequila and mezcal are consumed this day. WOW!
While there have been efforts to use and revive this holiday as an opportunity to celebrate Mexican culture and traditions, there is still a lot of work to do. We all must work together to educate and promote cultural awareness. Let’s genuinely engage with this and other cultures to learn and grow as a community.
Of course, this holiday is worthy of celebration, it was a battle of great importance. Let’s just keep in mind that Cinco de Mayo is a lot more than just tacos, margaritas, and fake mustaches. It’s the story of a Mexican army, people who beat the odds and demonstrated strength and resilience. Let’s celebrate that with appreciation and respect.
Take the time to read (only 8% of Americans read about it) and learn more about this significant holiday. Honor the Mexican culture by supporting and advocating all year long, not just one day out of the year.