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Why is Cinco de Mayo So Popular in the United States?

Contrary to popular belief, Cinco de Mayo is not Mexico’s Independence Day. Shocking! I know. The holiday is actually celebrated on Sept. 16. to commemorate the great Battle of Puebla, in which a humble and outnumbered Mexican army defeated the powerful French and started a resistance against foreign rule.

Why is Cinco de Mayo so popular in the United States?

Other than those who live in the town where the Battle of Puebla took place, Mexican citizens don’t celebrate the holiday, especially not how those in the U.S. do. The holiday gained mild popularity in the mid 20th century during the Chicano movement in California, a movement dedicated to empowering Mexican Americans to be proud of their heritage. However, the real reason for the big spike in the holiday’s popularity and its widespread drinking was beer companies like Corona, Bud Light and Dos Equis newly advertising themselves.

It all started in the 80s when these companies focused on the growing Hispanic market and began sponsoring Mexican holidays. There was a rocky beginning due to a party by Anheuser-Busch and Miller resulting in a drunken riot that led Latino activists to blame these beer companies for “pushing a legal drug on Latin American citizens.”

Drinking Mexican beer had become so popular that Don Mann, the marketing manager for Gambrinus, said, “Corona is the first thing that comes to mind when customers think Cinco de Mayo.”

How much have companies profited from this holiday?

On Cinco de Mayo in 2019, there were around 126 million liters of tequila consumed on Cinco de Mayo, and about $745 million was spent on light beers and malt liquors on this day alone. Furthermore, the Wall Street Journal found that Americans typically spend $500 million more during any holiday weekend. This makes it a big win for businesses.

This goes to show what a big impact some good marketing can do for a company. It can take a minor holiday and explode it into a major holiday in the U.S. But at what cost?

There has been great controversy surrounding the holiday. Have companies taken advantage of a minority population to make a quick buck? Beer companies have certainly profited after targeting the Hispanic market by promoting their drinks as a way to celebrate Cinco de Mayo. Do Americans take it too far when celebrating the holiday to a point where it becomes offensive to Mexican Americans?

Some view it as a day to take pride in their home country and to celebrate their heritage, but others are against the holiday due to the politics surrounding immigration and the ignorance over the holiday’s purpose. A survey by YouGov found that 41% of U.S. adults believe Cinco de Mayo is Mexican’s Independence Day, and 19% are unsure.

So, before you go out for some Mexican cuisine and sip on some margaritas, remember to celebrate with purpose. Be mindful that you are celebrating another country’s holiday. Cinco de Mayo is not just an excuse to drink, but rather a day to celebrate Mexican heritage and the victory of the Battle of Puebla.

Claudia is a third year Applied Physiology and Kinesiology major at the University of Florida. She's from Boca Raton, FL, but is a proud latina with roots in Mexico. She is a passionate woman looking to use her voice to inform readers on a wide range of topics from social disparities to personal college experiences from the perspective of a woman. When she isn't in class or volunteering, you can probably find her rollerblading somewhere outside or eating Ben & Jerry's ice cream while binge watching Friends for the 100th time. With her experience in writing for Her Campus UFL, Claudia hopes to one day bring this skill into her dream career as a physician to spread awareness about health disparities she encounters in the clinic.
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