Latin American Alliance
Do you know Cinco de mayo?
What is Cinco de Mayo?
If you are taking Spanish classes, you probably know that cinco de mayo means the date of May 5th, and from popular culture you may also know that it is a Mexican holiday. Many people, however, confuse Cinco de mayo with Mexican Independence Day, which is a common misconception. In reality, Cinco de mayo celebrates the Battle of Puebla, a military defeat of the French by Mexican troops in 1862.
Why were the French in Mexico?
In the mid-19th century, Mexican conservatives were fighting to regain control of the government and borrowed money from European countries (including France) to fund this effort. When Mexican President Benito Juárez took power and peace was reestablished in 1861, he declared that Mexico would not make payments on this debt for two years. To pressure the Mexican government to repay the debt, England, Spain and France sent troops to Mexico, but only France (under Napoleon III) remained there after a few weeks. It was expected that the French had an advantage over the Mexican army, so when the two groups clashed in the city of Puebla, it was an unexpected victory for the Mexicans and was widely celebrated.
Why is Cinco de Mayo celebrated in the United States?
The first Cinco de mayo celebration in the United States took place in California in 1863. While initially it did commemorate the victory of the Battle of Puebla, what really remained from that day was the feeling of Mexican pride. Over the years in the United States, Cinco de mayo has come to represent a day to celebrate Mexican cultural pride and identity in the United States.
But when is Mexican Independence Day?
So now you might be asking, if Cinco de mayo isn’t Mexican Independence Day, when is? Mexico celebrates its Independence Day on September 16, which is one of the many Latin American countries whose national holiday falls during the United States’ Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15-October 15). Be sure to come back to our blog in September to learn about the Grito de Dolores and how Mexican Independence Day is celebrated!
Polanco, Edward A. and Nancy J. Parezo. "Cinco de Mayo." Multicultural America: A
Multimedia Encyclopedia. Edited by Carlos E. Cortés. Vol. 1. Thousand Oaks: SAGE
Publications, Inc., 2013, pp. 505-505. http://www.doi.org.ezp.fandm.edu/10.4135/9781452276274.n188. Accessed 30 Apr 2021.