Today’s contribution is from Guest Blogger Marisa Morales, MPA, Human Resources Generalist at Austin Recovery. Marisa writes about her personal experiences celebrating Cinco de Mayo and clarifies the popular misconception behind the celebration of this special Mexican holiday. Enjoy!
Growing up as a Mexican-American in a Texas border town, I often saw celebrations for Cinco de Mayo (5th of May) and the Diez y Seis de Septiembre (16th of September). While my family never celebrated either one, it was often a great excuse to go out to eat and enjoy great Mexican food at a restaurant that was observing the Holiday with meal deals! I do not have any memories of learning about the Holiday in school, but it seems that in recent years I have noticed more celebrations on May 5th.
People often think of Cinco de Mayo as Mexico’s Independence Day, but it is not. Mexico’s Independence Day is celebrated on September 16th. Cinco de Mayo commemorates the Battle of Puebla in 1862. The battle was a David versus Goliath victory for the Mexican militia over the French army. The Mexican victory was short lived; the French eventually ended up sending 30,000 more troops to Mexico and occupied the country from 1864 to 1867.
The Holiday is regional and mostly celebrated in the state of Puebla, with some limited recognition in other Mexican states. In recent years the Holiday has become very popular in US cities with a large Mexican population, such as Arizona, California, and Texas. In these states the Holiday is mostly spent celebrating Mexican culture, such as food, music, art and customs unique to Mexico. Cinco de Mayo celebrations tend to draw out many traditional Mexican symbols such as the Virgen de Guadalupe, mariachi music, balie folklorico and pictures of Cesar Chavez. TIME magazine reports that “Cinco de Mayo started to come into vogue in the 1940’s when America saw the rise of the Chicano movement.”
As the Holiday approaches, I feel a sense of pride as a Mexican-American; my ancestors fought to not be invaded by a foreign crown that would have eventually take away their Mexican way of life. I really like the idea that people celebrate this Holiday and learn a little bit about Mexican culture and that brave militia that won that battle on May 5, 1862. This year, I will celebrate the Holiday and spend this Cinco de Mayo with a few of my family members and friends, have a traditional Mexican meal, listen to mariachi music, and honor the Battle of Puebla.
“[Cinco de Mayo] gives us an opportunity … to really get a jump-start on the summer beer-selling season” New York Times Business section; May 2, 2003. Accessed October 30, 2007
”Mexico’s Lasting European Influence.” By Jose Antonio Burciaga. Free Lance-Star Publishing. May, 2007. (First released in The Hispanic News Link. 1981.)”. Banderasnews.com. http://www.banderasnews.com/0705/edat-frenchdefeat.htm. Retrieved 2011-05-05.