Saturday, May 5, 2018

Feliz Cinco de Mayo

YES - A Repost From many years ago, but relevant today!

Today is Cinco de Mayo!!!  Feliz Cinco de Mayo if you are celebrating.   May 5th (Cinco de Mayo) day is a day in which most Americans are clueless as to what it all means. I have compiled 9 fun facts about Cinco de Mayo that you probably do not already know.  Some are taken from my experiences in Texas and living in Mexico.
1. Cinco de Mayo is NOT Mexican Independence Day. In America, we say “The 4th of July” when talking about our Independence Day. It would seems natural, then, that “The 5th of May” would be the Mexican equivalent. Not so. Actually, Cinco de Mayo is the anniversary of an 1862 battle between an under-armed, under-manned Mexican army against a well-armed French Army led by Napoleon III. Clearly, the Mexican army won, hence the celebration every 5th of May.  This battle took place in Puebla, Mexico.   16 de Septiembre (September 16) is actually Mexico's Independence Day and is celebrated throughout the country.  This is the day that Mexico declared Independence from Spain in 1810.  This is 52 years PRIOR to the Battle of Puebla.  
2. The Battle of Puebla was short. When we think of war in a modern sense, we think of prolonged battles that last days, or even weeks, with ground forces trudging forward. The Battle of Puebla commemorated on Cinco de Mayo, however, featured about 12,000 soldiers combined (8,000 French and 4,000 Mexican). Yet, the entire battle lasted just about two hours and changed the course of history in North America.
3. What were the French doing in Mexico in 1862? Think of them as an armed collections agency. After declaring their independence in 1810, Mexico went through decades of infighting, as well as fighting with America. this cost a lot of money. In 1861, Mexican President, Benito Juarez, declared a 2-year moratorium on loan repayments to foreign nations, including Spain, England, and France in an attempt to avoid bankrupting the country. All three nations invaded Mexico to collect on debts. While Spain and England left, France tried to stay and take over the country. Obviously, it didn’t work out for the French as we celebrate Cinco de Mayo and not Cinq mai.
4. Cinco de Mayo must be HUGE in Mexico! Not really. While the Batalla de Puebla helped to unify Mexico around one event, the major celebrations of Cinco de Mayo has largely been contained to the village of Puebla, about 100 miles east of Mexico City, where the original battle took place. In reality, Cinco de Mayo is much more popular in America, where citizens of Mexican descent (and those who just like a good margarita) hold festivals across the country.  I lived and taught in Mexico for 6 years -- We still had classes on that day, banks were open and there were no fireworks, parades, etc. in Monterrey.  
5.Just How Popular is Cinco de Mayo in the United States? In a word: VERY. Annual Cinco de Mayo festivals in Houston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Denver, and St. Paul, regularly draw hundreds of thousands of people. In fact, the world’s largest Cinco de Mayo celebration is the Festival de Fiesta Broadway held in Los Angeles, California. It routinely draws about 600,000 people to partake in song, spirit, and dance!  Rumor has it that the Beer companies actually had a hand in starting this holiday in the US.  
6. My grandparents say they don’t remember celebrating Cinco de Mayo when they were kids. What gives? Cinco de Mayo, as we know it today in America, didn’t begin until 1967. Some students from California State University noticed that there weren’t any Mexican holidays celebrated in America like there were for citizens of other descent, like St. Patrick’s Day, Oktoberfest, or Chinese New Year. So they chose Cinco de Mayo as the day to celebrate and gathered Chicano students in unity and celebration. Then, it really exploded when the beer companies got involved and started marketing the holiday in the late 70's.  
7. So they don’t party much in Mexico, huh? If you are in Puebla, yes - The rest of Mexico, No.  
8. The banks and schools are open in Mexico on Cinco de Mayo. Because Cinco de Mayo is a national holiday, and not technically a Federal holiday, the banks stay open. 
9. Why Cinco de Mayo still matters. As any celebratory holiday, it is important to honor those moments in a nation’s history when it overcomes tremendous odds. That alone would be reason to keep remembering Cinco de Mayo. The other noteworthy element of Cinco de Mayo is that it represents the last time a foreign army waged aggression in North America… 148 years ago.

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