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Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mexico's Independence Day: Cinco de Mayo

Does the average U.S. citizen know what Cinco de Mayo is? Is it an official national holiday in Mexico? Is it Mexico's Independence Day? Or is it a day for Americans to get drunk on Margaritas?

Cinco de Mayo marks the defeat of the French army by the Mexican militia at the Battle of Puebla in 1862. It's not Mexico's Independence Day. That date is September 16.

Cinco de Mayo (translates to English as 5th of May) is a Mexican holiday that is celebrated more widely in the United States than in Mexico. Cinco de Mayo is a celebration of the victory over French forces in the Battle of Pubela in Mexico on May 5 in 1862. The day is marked with food, parades, festivals, dancing and music. It is a time to celebrate the achievements and experiences of those of Mexican heritage.

The Battle of Puebla lasted for 4 hours. The Mexican forces were led by General Ignacio Zaragosa and the Mexican forces defeated the French forces. In addition to being a source of national pride for Mexico, the battle is significant because it was the last time any foreign government attacked a territory in North America.

Cinco de Mayo is one of over 300 Mexican festivals. It is not a major holiday, in fact it is not considered an official national holiday. Even though it is not widely observed in Mexico, it is celebrated in Puebla, the site of the 1862 battle. In Puebla, about 100 miles from Mexico City, it is commemorated with a parade, and a re-enactment of the battle; there is also an abundance of food, drink, music, dancing, and games with women wearing colorful traditional dresses.

The Battle of Puebla: Although considerably outnumbered, the Mexicans defeated a much better-equipped French army. This battle was significant in that the 4,000 Mexican soldiers were greatly outnumbered by the well-equipped French army of 8,000 that had not been defeated for almost 50 years. Second, it was significant because since the Battle of Puebla no country in the Americas has been invaded by a European military force.

The holiday has been celebrated in California continuously since 1863, is virtually ignored in Mexico. And many Mexicans living in the U.S. wonder what all the fuss is about.


Anonymous said...

"Where I'm from, we just call it Tuesday"
Kathleen Madigan, comedian