Four Little Known Facts About Cinco de Mayo

 | May 5, 2022

Credit: Nuestro Stories

Many people in the United States think of Tex-Mex food, drinks, and fiesta when Cinco de Mayo is mentioned but is so much more than that. 

Many have made a mockery of this day, so it’s time it shines for what it is.  

Learn these four facts about Cinco de Mayo, and feel empowered to school anyone who dares utter the phrase “Cinco de Drinko.” 

It’s Not Mexico’s Independence Day

The most common misconception is that Cinco de Mayo celebrates Mexico’s Independence Day. Instead, it is a commemoration of the Battle of Puebla that took place on May 5th, 1862.  

Yes, Cinco de Mayo means “5th of May,” but what about it?

Batalla de Puebla
Depictions of the battle showing Mexican cavalry overwhelming the French troops below the fort at Loreto. Scene recreated by Francisco P. Miranda. Oil on canvas, 1872.

This day lies in the bravery of Benito Juarez, who refused to continue paying foreign debts; France launched a war shortly after. Though the French outnumbered the Mexicans and had better equipment, the Mexicans managed to defeat them. 

Cinco de Mayo is a direct celebration of that victory – one where the underdog came out on top, hence a push for freedom. Again, it is not about Mexico’s Independence. Its independence was established 50 years before the Battle of Puebla in 1810.

It’s a celebration of Mexican heritage in the United States

The celebration of Cinco de Mayo is thanks to US-based Latinos. 

When they learned that the Mexican army had defeated the French, Latinos in California celebrated with patriotic songs, fireworks, food, and dancing. It is important to note that, at the time, the Civil War was taking place in the United States. Therefore, most Latinos were against slavery, white supremacy, and elitist forms of government. So, celebrations circling triumph and freedom were more on par with them.

It’s not a federal holiday in Mexico

This is not a national holiday in Mexico, although public schools are closed that day. Puebla – and nowhere else in Mexico –  hosts a battle reenactment and some other events. 

You may be wondering how a celebration from another country became a big deal in the United States? Well, it was President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Good Neighbor Policy (1933) that helped the date become a major holiday in the U.S.

Cinco de Mayo in Mogollon
Cinco de Mayo celebration, in Mogollon, New Mexico, in 1914. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Los Angeles Leads Cinco de Mayo Celebrations

The largest celebration is held in Los Angeles, California. According to the California Avocado Commission, about 81 million avocados are consumed during Cinco de Mayo. Not bad for a Mexican celebration that is not celebrated in Mexico.

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Featured image is from the image Hoja Suelta, by José Guadalupe Posada, 1901.
Featured image: Mexican air force Capt. Radames Gaxiola Andrade stands in front of his P-47D with his maintenance team after he returned from a combat mission. Captain Andrade was assigned to the Mexican air force's Escuadron 201. Members of the Escuadron 201 fought alongside U.S. forces during World War II.
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