The Myths and Truths Behind Cinco de Mayo

Thu, May 05, 2016 at 5:25PM

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Happy Cinco de Mayo! This traditionally Mexican holiday has gained widespread popularity throughout the US over the years—but many people still do not know exactly why we celebrate this special day. Below, we will be going over some of the most prevalent myths behind Cinco de Mayo, as well as some of the most important truths you ought to know.

It is not Mexican Independence Day…

Many people believe that Cinco de Mayo—or May 5th—is the Mexican equivalent of the US Fourth of July… but this just isn’t the case! Mexico does, in fact, have a celebratory Independence Day of its own… but that takes place several months from now, on September 16th!

Cinco de Mayo actually celebrates a meaningful (and unexpected) victory over French forces at 1862’s Battle of Puebla. The French outnumbered the Mexican forces almost two to one, with the Mexican side—with less weapons or provisions—looking like the clear underdog. So when the Mexican army prevailed, it became a source of celebration for Mexicans living in and out of the country at the time.

…nor is it widely celebrated in Mexico

Despite its significance at the time, Cinco de Mayo is not widely celebrated in its country of origin, nor is it a federal holiday. While there are some celebrations and reenactments of the day—and, fortunately for kids, school is closed—it is truly the US that celebrates Cinco de Mayo to the fullest.

The 1980s saw a rise in Cinco de Mayo celebrations, largely thanks to marketing efforts

While Cinco de Mayo celebrations have been held by Mexican populations within the US throughout the 20th century, the holiday gained momentum in the 1980s when marketers such as beer companies sold it as a holiday worth celebrating. This has led to the parties and festive nature of Cinco de Mayo that you’re familiar with today.

Cinco de Mayo gives us a chance to celebrate Mexican culture

Cinco de Mayo (and how we celebrate it) has come a long way over the past century, but it is still an excellent way for people to enjoy and appreciate Mexican culture. Last year, President Obama hosted Cinco de Mayo celebrations at the White House and called for the country to remember, on May 5th, that virtually all Americans were once immigrants themselves. He also noted the prevalence of Mexican influences in everything from the food we eat to the clothes we wear, showing a great admiration for Mexican culture as a whole.

Now that you know the significance behind Cinco de Mayo, get out there and enjoy it with friends and family. It may not be the most important holiday in Mexican culture, but it’s certainly a chance for cultures to mesh together and enjoy a special celebration—and that’s always something to appreciate!


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