What Is Cinco De Mayo And Why Does The U.S. Care?

Cinco de MayoIt’s Cinco de Mayo, which is Spanish for the ‘Fifth of May’. The holiday is celebrated across the entire United States and regionally in Mexico. But really, what is this holiday all about? When we think of Cinco de Mayo in the United States, images of going out to a Mexican restaurant and drinking beer comes to mind. However, there is a much deeper meaning to this celebration and one that the United States should be extremely grateful for. Here are five reasons why Cinco de Mayo is celebrated and the meanings behind it.

myfivebest -1What Is Cinco De Mayo?
Cinco de Mayo is a celebration celebrated on the fifth of May in remembrance of a victory by the Mexicans over the French in 1862 in the state of Puebla.  The Mexicans were the underdogs in the fight and still were able to beat the French.  Four thousand Mexicans held off a force of 8000 Frenchmen with superior weapons and combat experience.  Once again, the French proved that they can’t whoop anyone in a fight.  Contrary to widespread popular belief, Cinco de Mayo is not Mexico’s Independence Day, which is actually held on September 16th.

 

myfivebest - 2Why Were The French In Mexico?
It wasn’t because they wanted to see the Mayan ruins.  The French decided to occupy Mexico after they had lost to the American forces during the Mexican-American War (1846-48).  Mexico had a short-lived Civil War following that and then something called the Reform Wars.  All of this left Mexico broke, so they defaulted on their loans to England, Spain and France. As you can imagine, these countries weren’t too happy with this so they sent war ships to Mexico.  By the time they got there, England and Spain made an agreement with Mexico and went home.  France wasn’t so forgiving.

 

myfivebest - 3Why Should The United States Be Happy About This?
Well, did you see the date this battle occurred? It’s 1862.  The French decided to take over Mexico and establish a stronghold there.  The United States was in the middle of a Civil War.  The French thought if they could take over Mexico it would be a great landing spot to launch attacks on the western United States (which they had just sold the U.S. about 50 years earlier).  They also had plans on helping the Confederate army against the Union, which would also lead to a weaker overall country.  While the battle was successful and boosted Mexican morale, occupying the country took a little bit longer.  Just long enough for the United States to get over its own Civil War and be strong enough again to make the French think twice about invading.  Half of a country was easier to take over than a whole country.

 

myfivebest - 4When Did The United States Start Celebrating Cinco de Mayo?
Technically speaking, Mexican communities within the United States – mainly California – had held celebrations off and on since the Civil War.  In 1998, a study in the Journal of American Culture it was reported that there were more than 120 official U.S. celebrations of Cinco de Mayo, and they could be found in 21 different states.  On June 7, 2005, the U.S. Congress issued a Concurrent Resolution calling on the President of the United States to issue a proclamation calling upon the people of the United States to observe Cinco de Mayo with appropriate ceremonies and activities.  President George W. Bush signed it into law.

 

myfivebest - 5How Is Cinco de Mayo Celebrated?
You mean, besides with Corona and lime?  In the United States the date is recognized as a date to celebrate the culture and experiences of Mexican ancestry, just like St. Patrick’s Day, Oktoberfest, and the Chinese New Year are used to celebrate people of those ancestries.  Also, similar to those holidays, Cinco de Mayo is observed by many Americans regardless of ethnic origin.  Beyond going to a Mexican restaurant for dinner, many display Cinco de Mayo banners while school districts hold special events to educate pupils about its historical significance.