Cinco De Mayo and its history

Cinco De Mayo is a hispanic holiday celebrated to commemorate the Mexican army’s victory over the French empire in the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862. Cinco De Mayo literally means “The fifth of May.” (Photo courtesy of Public Domain)

Puebla is a city in Mexico that was once an Aztec society. It is now a very popular place to visit during the celebration of Cinco De Mayo because of its famous battle that pushed the French one step further out of Mexico. It is important to remember the battle as the Mexican army was vastly outnumbered and outgunned, but still pulled through. The French were overconfident with their attacks, thinking that they could easily put down any resistance that they had in taking over the city of Puebla. Obviously they were mistaken.

The Battle of Puebla was an incredibly important victory for Mexico. It showed that with enough courage and might, any empire can fall. Mexico was controlled by the French until 1867, when Mexico pushed France out of their country, establishing the Second Mexican Empire, and declaring their own independence. The Battle of Puebla strengthened morale for the Mexican people, rallying more soldiers for the cause of pushing the French back out of Mexico. 

During Cinco De Mayo, you will see parades in the streets (both military and civilian), colourful decorations, amazing traditional food, traditional dances, and even reenactments of the Battle of Puebla.  Each of these traditions are important to the Mexican people to celebrate a major turning point in the war against France. 

Not only do Mexicans celebrate Cinco De Mayo, Americans do as well. Americans have adopted the holiday, turning it into their own little party day for people all around the United States of America. Americans do pretty much the same things as Mexicans do during Cinco De Mayo, including the parades, drinking, and dancing. The whole idea of celebrating in America started when Chicano activists, fighting for civil rights for Mexicans in America, wanted to spread awareness of the event celebrated by Mexicans, and they identified with the indigenous tribes that were victorious over the French. The whole movement happened during the 1960’s, when the Mexican population of America was experiencing a massive amount of racism and descrimination. It ended in the early 1970’s, when civil rights were finally granted to Mexicans, and descrimination and segregation was ended. Cinco De Mayo in America is not a federal holiday, which means that schools, businesses, shops, and other government facilities will remain open for the time which the holiday starts. 

Spain also celebrates Cinco De Mayo, but a little differently than Mexico. Spain celebrates a day called, “Dos De Mayo,” or the Second of May. The cause of the holiday actually happened in 1808, 54 years before the Battle of Puebla. In the Battle of Madrid, the Spaniards reached a similar goal: to drive the French off of Spanish land. The Battle of Madrid occured on May 2, 1808, when Spanish and Portugal forces led an uprising against the occupying forces of the French. Unfortunately for Spain, France managed to suppress the uprising, but smaller insurrections around Spain continued to pop up, and, eventually, Spain gained their independence from France. 

Traditional foods include: tortilla chips, enchiladas, Mexican beers, tequila, and tacos. All of these are eaten with the whole family or in a party with neighbors and friends alike. All of Mexico is alight with partying and parading and dancing until the next day comes. 

Vendors and shopkeepers will display this traditional style food during the massive parades that are occuring during Cinco De Mayo. The parades also have singers, dancers, loud music and very colorful decorations to see while enjoying the night. The dancers are dressed in traditional cultural dresses, called the China Poblana dress. You will most likely see these dresses in the city of Puebla during Cinco De Mayo, where the famous battle occurred. There are also dresses called Mexican fiesta dresses, known for being worn for parties and other big events throughout Mexico. 

Not only are civilian parades common but so are military parades. All throughout Puebla and Mexico are reenactments of the Battle of Puebla. Obviously no one will get seriously hurt or killed, since it is only a reenactment of the battle. People will dress as either the French soldiers or the Mexican army and perform military formations that were done in the Battle of Puebla.  

Both Mexicans and Americans alike celebrate Cinco De Mayo. The celebrations include parading, dancing, singing, drinking, and other festivities. Cinco De Mayo is meant for celebrating the Battle of Puebla, in which the Mexican army fought off the French to help in gaining their independence.


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