I’d bet you didn’t know that Cinco de Mayo is more widely celebrated in the…
Did you know the famous Mexican Holiday, Cinco de Mayo, is more popularly celebrated throughout America than in Mexico? The holiday is celebrated annually in the United States with plenty of tacos, nachos, friends, drinks, and music. But do you truly know the real meaning behind the holiday each time you attend one of these celebrations?
Cinco de Mayo (which translates to the Fifth of May) is often misrepresented as Mexico’s Independence day, which actually occurs on annually September 16. Surprisingly, Cinco de Mayo had its origin more than 50 years after the country’s official independence day. So now that you know what Cinco de Mayo is not, let’s talk about what the holiday actually represents.
The History of Cinco de Mayo
Cinco de Mayo is a Mexican originated holiday that celebrates the date of the Mexican army’s victory over France at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862 during the Franco-Mexican War. For residents of Mexico, it is a relatively minor holiday and often a poor reminder of the countries history of civil war.
Conflicts began when Benito Juárez—a lawyer and member of the Indigenous Zapotec tribe—was elected president of Mexico. During this time the entire country was in financial ruin after years of internal strife, and as the new president Benito was forced to default on debt payments to European governments.
Which left France, Britain and Spain frustrated enough that they formed a triple alliance to send naval forces to Veracruz, Mexico, demanding to be repaid. After negotiation, Britain and Spain negotiated with the Mexican government to withdraw their forces completely.
Opposing the terms of negotiation, France under the rule of Napoleon III would decide to use the opportunity instead to use their efforts and expand their empire into Mexican territory. So late late in the year 1861, French forces stormed Veracruz driving President Juárez and his government into retreat. Unfortunately, the conflicts didn’t stop in Mexico City.
The Battle of Puebla
Following the initial attack thousands of the well armed French fleet the Mexican people under the rule of General Ignacio Zaragoza headed towards Puebla de Los Angeles, a city in Central and South America. While in his new headquarters in Puebla, General Ignacio Zaragoza had gathered 2,000 loyal men, most of them Native Americans or similar ancestry. The vastly overnumbered and inadequately equipped Mexican troops under the General in Texas were forced into fortresses and prepared for the next French attack. General Ignacio Zaragoza overtook the French army of 8,000 in battle in Puebla on May 5, 1862. This was a shocking outcome for the prestigious French army, who hadn’t lost a battle in 50 years.
Why do Americans Celebrate Cinco de Mayo?
Across the United States every year on May 5th, restaurants will host Cinco de Mayo specials and cocktails for the holiday. Many companies will encourage consumer purchases in celebration of Mexican culture, especially among the areas containing large Mexican American populations. Celebrations will usually include hispanic inspired cuisine and alcohol, parades, mariachi music, and traditional Mexican folk dancing.
The question then becomes where should the line be drawn between celebration and potentially insulting. Cinco de Mayo celebration focused advertising, decorations, and apparell always seem to put a heavy emphasis on the “party” aspect rather than the cultural and historical significance behind the Mexican revolution.
What Makes Cinco Mayo in Mexico Different?
Now that you know how Americans attempt to celebrate the historic Battle of Puebla, you are probably wondering what makes a traditional Mexican Cinco de Mayo celebration different. Cinco Mayo is usually observed in Puebla where the victory of General Zaragoza was originally celebrated. It is not uncommon for other regions of Mexico to get involved in the celebrations. Differing from the extensive focus on taco and margarita parties in America military, Mexico hosts professional parades and other celebrations to share the hispanic heritage.
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Cinco de Mayo is a huge day of recognition for Hispanic culture, but just the start of the efforts American citizens and businesses should be making to include Mexican culture into their practices. The importance of including Spanish marketing into your business strategies extends beyond Cinco de Mayo celebrations. As American business you should be taking the steps to ensure the success of your Spanish speaking employees and consumers just the same as an english speaking individual.
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