In the United States, Cinco de Mayo, which lands on May 5 every year, is a day to celebrate Mexican food, culture, and traditions. Of course, it’s also a great excuse to enjoy a margarita, and a big plate of nachos, too.
However, many who celebrate in the U.S. assume, incorrectly, that Cinco de Mayo is Mexico’s Independence Day. But, it’s not. Cinco de Mayo is a day for Mexican-Americans to show pride in their unique heritage.
Cinco de Mayo in Mexico, on the other hand, is celebrated in a very low-key manner. Some students get the day off, but banks and government offices are open. The only major celebrations (like parades and fiestas) take place in the city of Puebla, where there’s a military parade and a mock battle staged to commemorate the Battle of Puebla against the French, the event that, traditionally, gave rise to the holiday.
So why is Cinco de Mayo celebrated in such a big way in the United States? As with many other U.S. holidays, it’s all in the marketing. People across the country, whether of Mexican heritage or not, embrace the day as an excuse to eat Tex-Mex cuisine, drink Mexican beer, and prepare pitchers of margaritas, as the holiday is often associated with partying.
In 1862, during the time of the Battle of Puebla in Mexico, the United States was engaged in its own Civil War. The French presence in Mexico was a strategic move. By gaining a toehold in Mexico, the French could then support the Confederate Army. The defeat of the French during the Battle of Puebla was not definitive, but it helped stave them off so that U.S. Union forces could advance. Thus, Cinco de Mayo can be seen as a turning point in the U.S. Civil War.
Cinco de Mayo was first celebrated in the United States in Southern California in 1863 as a show of solidarity with Mexico against French rule. Celebrations continued on a yearly basis, and by the 1930s, the holiday was seen as an opportunity to celebrate Mexican identity, promote ethnic consciousness, and build community union. In the 1950s and 60s, the Mexican-American youth appropriated the holiday and it gained a bi-national flavor as a way to build Mexican-American pride. Some celebrations acquired corporate sponsors, giving the holiday its commercial flavor.
In the 1980s, Cinco de Mayo became commercialized on a wide scale, as alcohol companies used the holiday to gain new consumers. That, combined with a shifting American demographic that included an increase of young Latinos, Cinco de Mayo became a way for companies to make big bucks surrounding this holiday. Today, while the date is promoted as a day to celebrate Mexican food, culture, and tradition, many without Mexican heritage use it as an excuse to throw a party and drink. S
So when is Mexican Independence Day
It might have more sense to celebrate Mexican culture in the United States on September the 16th, which happens to be the real Mexican Independence Day and the day when all Mexicans show their national pride. Some say that saying “Cinco de Mayo” is so much easier for non-Spanish-speaking individuals than saying “Dieciséis de Septiembre.” Also as some marketers suggest, creating a festivity on May was more attractive for alcohol companies as they lack during May a big day for sales.
Now in Puerto Vallarta and Banderas Bay, with such a big ammount of American tourists and residents, many venues celebrate Cinco de Mayo throwing a Mexican Fiesta. Cinco de Mayo is a perfect day to celebrate diversity, acceptance, and, of course, great food and drinks.
I am Israel Andalón. I have a major in Electronic Engineering from ITESM. However I am a free-lance dance teacher and a tourist guide with my own company Alalibre. Besides Dancing and traveling, I like arts, geek stuff, social media, environmental issues, chess, scooters, literature, drawing, parties, entrepreneurship and marketing.
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