As many people can guess from the name, Cinco de Mayo takes place on May 5. But what is this holiday? Why do so many people celebrate it across the globe? In the U.S., Cinco de Mayo is not a federal holiday, nor is it Mexican Independence Day, as many believe it to be. But it is one of the most important days of the year nonetheless.
Let’s take a look at this incredible holiday, what it represents, and why it is so popular in the United States and many other parts of the world.
The Importance of Cinco De Mayo
The idea behind Cinco de Mayo is to celebrate the victory against the French army. It was during the Battle of Puebla that took place in 1862 when Mexico managed to defeat the French Empire. The Mexican army was led by General Ignacio Zaragoza, and it was one of the most important victories.
It also represents a triumph of a smaller country, fighting for its independence and freedom. What is interesting is that Cinco de Mayo is not as popular in Mexico. It is a small holiday that is only celebrated in the state of Puebla.
The popularity of the holiday is much more noticeable in the United States, where it has become a synonym for Mexican heritage and culture. Today, it is an important holiday for Mexican-American culture and people in the entire country.
What Happened on the Fifth of May?
The Battle of Puebla was the culmination of events that happened a few decades prior. These include the Second French Intervention in Mexico, the Mexican-American War, and the War of the Reform. Like many countries in the nineteenth century, Mexico was involved in a lot of wars and saw battles. But the country was also facing internal problems, which eventually led to a civil war.
All the turmoil led dangerously close to the bankruptcy of the Mexican Treasury, and President Benito Juárez froze all payments of foreign debts. As you can probably guess, other countries did not approve of the move. Spain and Britain managed to find common ground and negotiate future payments. After that, they withdrew. But, the French Empire saw this as a way of rebuilding the French influence on the continent, and the invasion started in 1861.
Eventually, the French Army reached Puebla, and the battle started. Even though the French troops had twice as many men and were better armed than the Mexican army, they failed to capture the city. This was an incredible boost to the morale of the Mexican people, and the fact that they repealed the French force created a sense of unity and patriotism among the citizens.
At the same time, the French Army hadn’t lost a battle in over 50 years. And they lost it against Mexico. Even though the French returned a year later, their victory was short-lasting. A couple of years later, with the help of the United States, Mexico managed to free Mexico City and regain control of the entire country.
History of the Holiday
The news that Mexico defeated the army of Napoleon III spread like wildfire. The first recorded celebration of the holiday was in California in 1863. It was a way of showing the resistance to French rule in the neighboring country. Mexican people all over the continent celebrated the victory, and they started singing national songs and lighting up fireworks.
In California, Cinco de Mayo has been celebrated since 1863 — every single year without exception! Over time, other states started picking up the holiday and celebrating Mexican culture. But the popularity of the holiday truly exploded in the 1980s. Beer companies and marketers seized the opportunity to celebrate the festivity and started promoting the event.
Over the years, Cinco de Mayo almost transformed into a celebration of Mexico, its people, and it's wonderful culture. In Mexico, public schools are closed across the entire country, but it is still not a national holiday. May 5 is still important in the state of Puebla, where the battle took place many years ago.
Interestingly enough, Cinco de Mayo is celebrated across the world as well. Countries like Canada, Jamaica, South Africa, England, and others use it as an opportunity to celebrate Mexico and Latin American culture.
Celebrating Cinco De Mayo
There are many different ways to celebrate this holiday. Each city, country, and home will have its own way of honoring the tradition and culture of the Mexican people. You can use colorful decorations to enrich your home, put on mariachi music, and prepare for fun!
In many places, the focus for the day will be on Mexican cuisine, which is a perfect opportunity for you to enjoy some delicious treats. Another excellent idea is to learn something new about Mexican culture. If you have children, you can enjoy learning together.
Since the holiday has evolved in the past fifty years, you can use this unique opportunity however you see fit. The most important thing is to remember Mexican people and do something that will make you and your family happy. Even though Cinco de Mayo does not fall on Tuesday this year, that shouldn’t stop you from making tacos and celebrating the day with the rest of the world.