Cinco de Mayo: Not Mexican Independence Day

Cinco de Mayo: Not Mexican Independence Day

By Marc Esquivel Posted April 18, 2012

Por que celebramos el Cinco de Mayo?

We all see the enormous fiestas with Mexican people putting on traditional dances and serving the most delicious food on the planet, but really, what are they celebrating? Many people, Americans and Mexican-Americans alike, have no idea what Cinco de Mayo is about.

“We’re Mexican, it’s our duty to know about our country’s history,” said senior Betsy Guerrero, “it’s where our parents came from, we should know what happened.”

When Benito Juarez became president of Mexico in 1861, he was forced to default on all the country’s debts because of the financial ruin the country was in. Spain, Britain, and France sent forces over to demand their money. Mexico settled with Spain and Britain but France decided to try incorporating Mexico into their empire and sent 6000 troops to attack Puebla de Los Angeles, a small town in Mexico. President Juarez sent 2000 soldiers to defend the town under command of General Ignacio Zaragoza. The second-rate Mexican force was able to fend off the French, killing more than 500 French soldiers while losing less than 100 soldiers themselves. The Cinco de Mayo was a major victory for Mexico and showed that the country wouldn’t just roll over and let France in without a fight.

The ‘holiday” is much more glorified in the US than it is in Mexico. Most of Mexico, excluding the state of Puebla in which the battle took place, treats the Cinco de Mayo like any other day of the year. In the state of Puebla, the Cinco de Mayo is celebrated with recreations of la Batalla de Puebla and festivals to commemorate the Mexican victory. In the United States, the holiday is celebrated in several ways: festivals put on mainly by people of Mexican decent, show the traditional Mexican celebrations such as dances and performing music; locally, elementary schools put on a demonstration of the Cinco de Mayo to educate young ones on what the holiday is.

Contrary to what most Americans (and many people of Mexican decent) believe, the Cinco de Mayo is not Mexican Independence Day, which is September 15-16. Cinco de Mayo is more of a “getting in touch with their roots” for many Mexicans in America, and is celebrated much more here than it is in Mexico.

The almost depressing part of the holiday is that many Mexican kids or kids of Mexican decent in America have no idea what they are celebrating, showing a loss of culture to some degree.

“It’s something that kids [of Mexican decent] have to want to learn about and look into,” said Spanish teacher Mr. Clay Sagers, “I think it would be good for the kids to learn about [Cinco de Mayo] and know what it really is.”

If you don’t know, now you know. Cinco de Mayo May 5, is the celebration of the victory in Puebla, not Mexico winning independence from Spain close to 50 years prior to the Battle of Puebla.

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