Cinco de Mayo is only a few days away, and many are beginning preparations for one of the most celebrated “minor” holidays in our nation. So break out the margaritas, Mexican cuisine or, better yet, the dreaded bottle of tequila and make room for plenty of friends.
Cinco de Mayo, this Saturday, will be celebrated across the nation as not a celebration of Mexican independence, as many believe, but instead as a celebration of Mexican heritage.
Many erroneously believe Cinco de Mayo commemorates the anniversary of Mexican Independence much in the same way we as Americans also erroneously celebrate our nation’s liberation from the English on July 4 each year. The historical reason for the holiday dates back to 1862 when Mexican forces defeated an overwhelmingly larger French battalion at the Battle of the Puebla.
French forces landed in Veracruz that year accompanied by British and Spanish soldiers in a collaborative effort to reclaim debts owed to France by the Mexican President Benito Juarez.
Cinco de Mayo has become more than just a commemoration of victory. The holiday has come to represent the pride and passion many Mexican citizens and Mexican-Americans feel toward their country. The day is celebrated in Mexico as an optional national holiday; students are given the day off from school, banks and federal offices may or may not be closed depending on what state they are in. Puebla, the site of the original victory, commemorates with parades and even a mock-battle.
In Mexico, the holiday is a matter of national pride. In the U.S. it's no different; though, it is often high-jacked by revelers searching for any occasion to celebrate. With the diversity of our nation increasing each year, it is no surprise that many states find their Mexican-American populations increasing as well.
According to the 2010 U.S. census, there were approximately 32 million residents of Mexican heritage, and the Mexican-American population outnumbers any other Hispanic groups in 40 out of the 50 states.
Cinco de Mayo can be celebrated by members of any ethnicity in a variety of ways; however, one key thing should be kept in mind- that of Mexican pride. Partiers can take in a night of Mexican-themed music, enjoy a tasty meal of Mexican cuisine or appreciate the diverse and significant cultural artifacts produced by Mexicans or people of Mexican descent. Whatever you end up doing, remember to keep in mind the many aspects of Mexican heritage that make many so proud.