All the things you never knew (but wish you did!) about Cinco de Mayo
by Jordan Parry
True or False: Mexico celebrates Cinco de Mayo because it’s their Independence Day.
Easy, right? WRONG!
The answer, and it may surprise you, is actually… *drumroll, please* … FALSE!
Mexico’s Independence Day is actually celebrated on September 16, during the same month that many (nine!) Latin American countries celebrate the end of colonialism, oppression, and dictatorships.
So if Independence Day is in September, what the heck is Cinco de Mayo all about? (No, not just that it’s easier to say than “dieciséis de septiembre.”)
Cinco de Mayo isn’t even celebrated throughout all of Mexico; much like St. Patrick’s Day, its popularity exploded in the U.S. due to a combination of cultural education, consumerism, and the fact that we Americans just like an excuse for a party (especially a theme party).
It was brought to the attention of the U.S. by Chicano activists who raised awareness of the holiday in the 1960s, in part because they identified with the victory of indigenous Mexicans over European invaders during the Battle of Puebla. (Source)
So what is it all about? Here’s a quick history lesson for you. In the 1860’s, when the U.S. was distracted by its own (civil) war, France had decided that Mexican President Benito Juarez wasn’t paying the country’s debts quickly enough and therefore decided to intervene. (It didn’t help that Juarez had straight-up decided not to pay the country’s interest payments to foreign countries.)
On May 5, 1862, Mexican troops defeated France in the Battle of Puebla. Although Mexico went on to lose most of the intervention’s remaining battles (French forces were ultimately driven out of Mexico by mostly guerrilla-style resistance), this victory served as a morale booster and cause for celebration for Mexico. It still serves as a symbolic representation of Mexico’s ability to come together and show strength and national pride.
So, while you’re out and about, enjoying the music, food, and festivities of this weekend’s celebration, you can show off your knowledge when one of your friends mistakenly wishes you a happy Mexican Independence Day.
And next week, once you’ve recovered from your inevitable margarita-induced hangover, come stop by the ShareLingo office in Denver to learn more about Spanish immersion-style classes with real native speakers.
The ShareLingo concept is really simple. Instead of learning from a white board or a computer, we help English learners meet Spanish learners for face-to-face practice together. A bilingual facilitator uses our method and materials to keep things moving so you are never bored. We have language learning solutions for individuals, businesses, non-profits, and schools. Learn more at www.sharelingo.org.