Happy Cinco de Mayo!

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Dear Editor:

In recent years, May 5, otherwise known as Cinco de Mayo in Mexico, has become an “adopted holiday” in many parts of the United States. Typically, on this “holiday,” many celebrate by drinking tequila and eating inauthentic Mexican food. Some may even post Mexican flags on social media and inaccurately caption it, “Happy Independence Day, Mexico!”

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Many celebrate Cinco de Mayo without knowing anything about it. For openers, May 5 is not Mexico’s “Independence Day.” Mexico’s Independence is celebrated on September 16. Instead, May 5 commemorates Mexico’s victory over the French Empire in the Battle of Puebla in 1862.

In 1862, while the United States was engaged in the Civil War, France, Spain, and Great Britain were in Mexico to collect debt. Spain and Great Britain successfully negotiated with Mexico and withdrew. France, however, used this opportunity to establish a puppet regime in Mexico that would favor French imperial interests. Subsequently, after negotiations with France broke down, the two countries battled in a muddy, uneven field in the early morning on May 5, 1862.

At that time, the French Army was considered the finest military force on earth, and it had 6,000 highly trained soldiers on the battlefield, some 2,000 more than Mexico’s militia – many of whom were farmers. Because they were outnumbered, Mexico’s victory seemed highly unlikely. But, the smaller, poorly equipped Mexican force defeated the larger, better-trained, and better-armed French army. The French eventually overran the Mexicans in subsequent battles, but the Mexican victory at Puebla against a better equipped French force provided a patriotic boost to the Mexicans.

Instead of it just being known as “Cinco de Drinko,” a “holiday” in which people consume alcohol, Cinco de Mayo has been celebrated in many places by having a parade and a traditional party. For example, in Mexico, especially in Puebla, Cinco de Mayo has been celebrated with a military parade. Once the parade is over, the whole city throws a symbolic party in which traditional Mexican food is served. Of course, the current health situation may hamper those traditional festivities.

If you really want to celebrate and honor Mexico’s heritage, then you should learn more about the true meaning and the cultural significance of Cinco de Mayo. Believe me, Cinco de Mayo is much more than a convenient excuse to drink booze and eat “faux” Mexican cuisine.

John Di Genio