Cinco de Mayo is a holiday I really enjoy celebrating. I love any excuse to drink margaritas and eat delicious Mexican food. However, as I started to think about sipping my cocktail and eating my guacamole, I began to wonder what the meaning was behind this wonderful holiday.
Cinco de Mayo, as it is called in the United States, literally translates to the 5th of May, which is the day that it is celebrated. Like most Americans, I always believed it was the day to celebrate Mexico’s independence. However, after a quick google search, I realized I had been wrong all these years.
In Mexico the holiday is called “El Día de la Batalla de Puebla”. This translates to “The Day of the Battle of Puebla”, which is exactly what it commemorates. Cinco de Mayo celebrates a very unlikely victory. In 1862, the trained and well armed French Army was marching towards the capital, where they hoped to force the Mexican Government to honor some of their previous debts. A group of untrained Mexican soldiers with poor equipment somehow defeated them. Although the French Army was not driven out of Mexico for five more years, the victory at Puebla became a symbol of resistance to foreign domination.
It is important to mention that many historians believe that this battle strongly affected United States History. The French invasion on Mexico occurred during the American Civil War. Many historians believe that had the French won this battle, they would have continued traveling North towards the US border to help the Confederate Soldiers fight the Union Soldiers. With the additional support, the Confederates could have won the war, forever changing the United States.
Cinco de Mayo is celebrated in both the United States and Mexico with parades, festivals, fireworks and family gatherings. It became a popular holiday in the United States with the arrival of Mexican Immigrants in the early 1900’s. It is often said that it is a bigger holiday in the United States than it is in Mexico. This may be true, especially since the biggest Cinco de Mayo celebration takes place in Los Angeles. Drawing crowds of thousands of people, the “Festival de Fiesta Broadway” is a large party with parades, food, dancing, music and more.
So now you know the real meaning behind Cinco De Mayo. It’s so much more than burritos, tacos, beer, and margaritas. This May 5th you are not only celebrating Mexican heritage, but also the Victory at Puebla. Enjoy the fiesta!
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