What Are We Celebrating this Cinco de Mayo?
Cinco de Mayo seems like the perfect excuse to wear a sombrero and stuff yourself with tacos. However, that’s everything this date is not for. Of course, we’re not against Cinco de Mayo celebrations, au contraire, we would love to aid you in your efforts to celebrate this date. However, it is important to keep in mind that Cinco de Mayo is a lot more than just a party for over indulging on Tequila and chimichangas. Take your time to comprehend and appreciate the cultural significance of the events of that date in history.
Cinco de Mayo, as you probably guessed, is celebrated on May 5th to commemorate the unlikely and difficult victory of the Mexican Army over the French Empire at the Battle of Puebla. It happened on that same date in 1862, under the leadership of General Ignacio Zaragoza, who against all odds guided the Mexican soldiers to win the battle. However, here in the States, this date has also become the official date to observe and celebrate Mexican-American culture, whilst in Mexico the celebration is ceremonial with military parades and a deep historical meaning, henceforth, a commemoration more than a celebration; in the US it has a more cultural and celebratory connotation.
Contrary to popular belief, Cinco de mayo is not Mexico’s Independence Day, which, by the way, is celebrated on September 16, commemorating the Cry of Dolores that initiated the war of Mexican independence from Spain. Nevertheless, for the Mexican people, its historical significance is quite similar, since in both occasions they had to defend their country and their people from foreign armies trying to oppress them and exploit their resources while at it. The significance of the Cinco de Mayo battle is renowned nationally and internationally for several reasons. One of them is that in spite of being outnumbered and under-equipped, the 4,000 Mexican soldiers defeated a technically superior army of 8,000 Frenchmen that had not been defeated for almost 50 years.
The celebration of Cinco de Mayo in modern America started in California in 1863, in response to the resistance to French rule in Mexico. Mexican miners working in the gold country town of Columbia (now Columbia State Park) were so overjoyed at the news that they spontaneously fired off rifle shots and fireworks, sang patriotic songs and made impromptu speeches. Later, in the XX century, during the 40s, the Chicano Movement rose and the holiday crossed over from California into the rest of the United States but did not gain popularity until the 80s, when beer companies decided to capitalize on the celebration and began promoting it as a date to celebrate Mexican culture and heritage, starting in areas with large Mexican-American populations like Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston and San Jose.
Now that you know the meaning of this date and how special Cinco de Mayo really is, you can feel free to celebrate it in whatever way pleases you, always remembering the meaning behind the celebration and honoring the legacy of those who fought for freedom on that day.
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