What is Cinco de Mayo a Celebration of?

image via Wikipedia

This weekend, cities all around the United States will participate in the celebration of Cinco de Mayo.  There will be parades, fireworks, fairs and of course, great specials on Corona no matter where you go.  I myself have reservations for a Mexican restaurant where I will partake in Saturday’s festivities, but unlike most people, I will also know what I’m celebrating.

If you think that Cinco de Mayo is the celebration of the Mexican Independence Day, you are wrong.  Don’t feel bad, most Americans believe this as truth.  In fact, Mexico’s Independence Day is celebrated on September 16th and is widely considered the nation’s most important holiday.  So then what is Cinco de Mayo and why is it so popular you ask?  Let’s take a look at history to answer that question:

image via Wikipedia

In 1861, amid financial desperation, Mexican President Benito Juarez announced that Mexico was suspending payment on all foreign debt for the next two years.   France didn’t like this.  They were so angered by this declaration that they were going to take Mexico by force and appoint a new leader.  On May 5, 1862, the French army was marching to Mexico City when they hit the State of Puebla.  It was here that the Mexican army led by General Ignacio Zaragoza defeated the much larger French army.

When word of this victory got to Mexican miners in California, they were so overjoyed with the news that they began firing weapons in the air and singing songs.  Since then, every year in California there has been some sort of celebration of Cinco de Mayo and the Battle of Puebla.

Cinco de Mayo may not be the celebration of the Mexican Independence, but it is still a celebration of Mexican heritage and pride.  While celebrations in the United States have grown over the years, there are not many fiestas to be had in Mexico itself.  Outside of the State of Puebla in Mexico, Cinco de Mayo is not celebrated much at all.

In the 1980’s the holiday became very commercialized by advertisers, which is why there is so much confusion about it today.  Beer companies in particular began pushing for celebrations and now, they have their wish.  Last year, Time Magazine ranked Cinco de Mayo #4 on their “Top 10 Drunkest Holidays” list.  So this year, after you take your shot of Cuervo and chase it with a Dos Equis, try to remember what the holiday is actually about.  Happy Cinco de Mayo!


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