What’s to Learn About Cinco de Mayo

[Editor’s Note: This article was meant to be posted on May 4th, but it wasn’t able to be published until after Cinco de Mayo due to sitewide technical difficulties. We liked Maria’s article so much that we decided we should still post it!!]




May the 4th be with you has passed and it is now time to bring out the guacamole and celebrate Cinco de Mayo. Or perhaps not. As an American, I can say that myself and my fellow Americans have often misappropriated (and unfortunately continue to do so) aspects of other cultures. To help stymie against that in this one small measure, I wanna pass along this information about Cinco de Mayo.


First off, it is not celebrated in Spain. It is not a Spanish holiday at all but a Mexican one. The fifth of May commemorates a particular battle in Mexico in 1862, the Battle of Puebla. Mexico had been independent of Spain since 1821 (according to Britannica) but once it issued a moratorium (basically a pause of payment) on its debts to foreign countries (*side eyes England, Spain, and France*), things got heated. Those three countries invaded the independent Mexico (which has its own bloody history of invasions and colonization) in 1861 to essentially strong-arm it into paying its debts. In April 1862, England and Spain got pushed out but the French were stubborn. They wanted to establish a monarchy state (cause Mexico is comprised of states, similar to the U.S.) under Napoleon III for France’s sake but also to keep an eye on the United States’ power. (Still according to Britannica) France didn’t seem to like the States’ growing power in North America.


But the Mexicans were stubborn as well. In a blockbuster underdog movie-worthy battle, Mexican forces, with the help of a force of Zapotec people, pushed back French troops in, you guessed it, the Battle of Puebla, a city southeast of Mexico City. This was not the end of the war, however. Fighting continued for another five years. But this one battle changed the tide for the people of Mexico.


In the U.S., especially in Mexican-American populations, Cinco de Mayo, or Battle of Puebla Day, involves grand celebrations. However, in Mexico, it is really only the state of Puebla which celebrates the holiday and is considered relatively minor in the other states. So, if you want to celebrate Cinco de Mayo, be aware of what you’re celebrating. Please don’t “celebrate” just for the sake of making guacamole or buying a special case of beer. I am in no way a culture police or what have you about this; I’m just suggesting as a person not of Mexican heritage to be cognizant of what you're doing and to be respectful. Don’t appropriate to celebrate. Instead, celebrate to appreciate.

Sources: History.com and Britannica.