Cinco de Mayo

Cinco de Mayo

Hanna Kirik

Can you hear the maracas? Otherwise known as the Fifth of May, Cinco de Mayo began as a Mexican holiday to celebrate the unlikely victory of the Battle of Puebla in 1862. The French army of 6,000 men attacked and were defeated by the poorly equipped Mexican army. The army was lead by General Ignacio Zaragoza. The battle of Puebla represented a significant morale boost to the Mexican army and the Mexican people as a whole. The celebration was named after the battle by Mexican President Benito Juárez.

The Mexican victory was short lived, when only a year later the french were able to capture Mexico City and install Emperor Maximilian I as ruler of Mexico. In the United States, Cinco de Mayo is often mistaken for Mexico’s Independence Day which is actually September 16th. In Mexico, all public schools are closed this early May day. In Mexico, Cinco de Mayo is usually celebrated with parades and folkloric music and dancing. Not to mention the food. Parade participants dress as both Mexican and French soldiers to reenact the battle. In the city of Puebla, historically accurate reenactments take place to commemorate the battle. In Mexico City, the military commemoration is held in the historic city.

Spanish teachers, Mr. Haise and Mrs. Green, both teach about Cinco de Mayo. However when it comes to celebrating the holiday, they don’t feel the need to take part in the festivities. Some of the very first people in America to celebrate were Mexican miners that were so overjoyed at the news, they fired off fireworks and sang patriotic songs. Most Americans nowadays celebrate Cinco de Mayo by partying with their friends, while snacking on Taco Bell and refreshments. Not only is the holiday celebrated in Mexico and the US; Canada, the Cayman Islands, the Caribbean, even as far as Australia celebrates it too! These places play Mexican music and serve traditional Mexican dishes and drinks.

Over the years, the US has debated back and forth whether or not it would be considered a statutory holiday. In June of 2005, the United States Congress issued a resolution calling on the president to issue a proclamation so that Americans celebrate the holiday with appropriate ceremonies and activities. Such appropriate activities include banners in schools to educate students about its historical significance, and parties highlighting Mexican culture. Places like Los Angeles and San Jose have a large Mexican-American population, and the holiday peaked during the Chicano Movement.

So while you are enjoying the fun at Cinco de Moes remember that Cinco de Mayo is more than just chips and salsa. It has historical significance that is important to Mexican culture.