Cinco de Mayo
Lifestyle May 16, 2018
Cinco de Mayo (Spanish: “Fifth of May”) is massively celebrated, in particular, in the United States – it’s a time that recognises Mexican culture. But Cinco de Mayo is also one of the most misunderstood Mexican holidays, so we delve into the real meaning behind this cultural phenomenon.
Contrary to popular belief, Cinco de Mayo is not Mexico’s Independence Day which is in fact celebrated on 16 September and originated in 1810 when Mexico gained its independence from the Spanish colonial government.
Cinco de Mayo, however, is celebrated each year on 5 May and commemorates the Mexican army’s unlikely victory over the French forces of Napoleon III in 1862. The Battle of Puebla emerged when Mexico had defaulted on debts with a few European countries including, France Britain and Spain. But France had come to Mexico to collect that debt as French President Napoleon III, thought it would be a fantastic time to try and build an empire in Mexico.
The French invaded Mexico in late 1861 with well-armed forces. They stormed Veracruz, forcing the Mexican government and its forces to retreat into northern Mexico. Confident of further victories, French forces focused their attention on the city Puebla de Los Angeles. Anticipating the attack, Mexican President Benito Juárez brought together a group of 2,000 men, many of whom were indigenous Mexicans or of mixed ancestry, to fight back. When the French finally attacked, on May 5, 1862, the battle lasted from daybreak to early evening. The French ended up retreating after losing almost 500 soldiers. The Mexicans, both vastly outnumbered and poorly supplied compared to the French, lost fewer than 100 men.
French forces did not leave, however, until 1867 after years of fighting. The Mexicans were helped in part by the end of the Civil War, when the US was able to send their own troops to help out their besieged neighbour, Mexico.
For centuries since, people in Puebla celebrate with colourful parades, speeches, dances and re-enactments of the war and while today Cinco de Mayo has become more of an American holiday than a Mexican one, particularly in America’s growing Hispanic populations, it is not celebrated by all Mexicans as Cinco de Mayo is not a public holiday so the day is just like every other day for most Mexicans.
In summation, the reason for celebration and a lot of margaritas and cerveza (beer) on 5 May is that a group of ragtag indigenous people Mexicans were able to successfully hold back French forces, while outnumbered and under sourced.
Fun fact: Americans consume an immense amount of avocado on Cinco de Mayo, it is approximated that they eat 81 million pounds of avocados on Cinco de Mayo each year. This is great news for Mexico’s economy, since 82% of America’s avocados come from Mexico.
So, we hope that you celebrated the 5th of May with good food, good drink and good faith in the underdog.