Happy Cinco de Mayo! So what are we celebrating, anyway?
Patricia E. Acosta
Cinco de Mayo is a very popular, yet often misunderstood celebration. Although throngs of people love to take part in Cinco de Mayo festivities, few know the real meaning of this date, both for Mexico and for the United States.
You probably know that Cinco de Mayo
- is an important day in the history of Mexico.
- is a holiday that celebrates Mexican heritage and pride, and it is observed by many people from different nationalities in the United States.
- is a celebration that often includes mariachi music, dancing, and lots of delicious Mexican food and drinks.
So, yes, people are right to think that Cinco de Mayo is a great opportunity to celebrate our country’s Mexican heritage, to party, and to eat tacos, but there’s a lot more to this holiday than meets the eye… not to mention the mouth and ear!
But did you know that Cinco de Mayo
- is a patriotic holiday celebrated in parts of Mexico, but it is not Mexico’s Independence Day?
- is a date to commemorate the victory of Mexico over France in the Batalla de Puebla?
- is a far more popular holiday in the United States than it is in most parts of Mexico?
- is observed by the people of the United States with official celebrations and ceremonies thanks to a proclamation by the US Congress?
This special date is celebrated in Mexico and the United States because the Mexican victory at the Batalla de Puebla greatly affected the destiny of both countries. Unfortunately though ¾because Cinco de Mayo is so much fun¾ few of us remember to take a few minutes to find out what it is exactly that we are celebrating. The good news is that, if you are reading this article, you are on your way to find out more about what happened on this festive date. So here are the facts, in a nutshell:
After a devastating civil war that came after the Mexican-American war, Mexico was almost bankrupt, so it couldn’t pay much of the money that it owed to other countries. As one of the nations owed much of the debt, France decided to take this opportunity to send its powerful army to occupy Mexico and turn it into a French territory. Also, France saw this as an opportunity to weaken the United States' growing influence in the region by acting while the United States was preoccupied and embroiled in its own civil war. But on May 5, 1862, the mighty French army was surprised when it encountered heavy resistance from Mexican soldiers near Puebla. The French had more soldiers and more powerful weapons, but the Mexican soldiers still managed to defeat them. That day was declared a holiday by President Benito Juárez of Mexico, and it became a day of unity and pride for all Mexicans. The United States’ leaders were glad that the French had not been able to conquer Mexico and pose a threat to the future of Mexico and of the United States. Eventually the French came back and took over Mexico but not for long. By then, the French were not a threat to the United States anymore and the Mexicans, with help from the United States, were eventually able to regain control of their government.
Today, Cinco de Mayo celebrations are held in the United States to honor the culture and experiences of Americans of Mexican ancestry, and of Mexicans and people of other cultures who have contributed to the development of our country’s strength, wealth, and cultural identity.
What are you planning to do with your class to celebrate Cinco de Mayo?
Every year, Americans around the nation get together to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month from September 15th through October 15th. The contributions Hispanic Americans have made to the United States are endless and inspiring, and they have had a profound and positive impact on our county.
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