I was lucky to grow up in Arizona, near the border. As a child, I went to an almost all Mexican elementary school, grew up snacking on Mexican candy 24/7, and had an elotero man (corn man) on my street. I, myself, am as white as you can be, with pale skin and strawberry blonde hair, but I was never bullied and fit in extremely well at my elementary school. I am lucky to say that I was immersed in Mexican heritage growing up, so I know a bit more about it than others might — but I am always wanting to learn more.
Cinco De Mayo may be just another day for you to go get tacos and margs with the girls, but in reality, it is a holiday that means a lot and has become a commemoration of Mexican culture in the U.S. Today, we’re going to look at the origins of Cinco De Mayo and its significance.
Origins of Cinco De Mayo
Even though you may have heard that Cinco De Mayo is the Mexican Independence Day, that is incorrect. This holiday commemorates the Mexican army’s victory over France at the Battle of Puebla during the Franco-Mexican War. It is also referred to as Battle of Puebla Day. Although this battle was “not a major strategic win in the overall war against the French,” the winning of this battle became a representation of victory and led to further resistance. In this battle, a Mexican army of 2,000 beat out a French army of 6,000, even though they were outnumbered.
. . . .
How is Cinco De Mayo Celebrated Today?
Surprisingly, most parts of Mexico, besides Puebla, do not really celebrate Cinco De Mayo as much as the United States does. In the U.S., Cinco De Mayo is celebrated as a time to commemorate and celebrate Mexican culture. The holiday is usually described as “a reminder that a grain of hope, no matter how small or insignificant to others, can make the impossible…possible.” It is usually celebrated with the eating of traditional cuisine, like Mole Poblano, which is a thick, rich, chocolate-tinged sauce. On the 5th of May, there are usually parades, parties, mariachi music performances, and festivals to celebrate.
How Can I Celebrate Cinco de Mayo?
While there is nothing wrong with going out for Mexican food to celebrate the holiday, you should be careful to not cross any boundaries. First, you should eat at authentic small Mexican businesses nearby to show your support. If you are going out to eat at a big chain, you really aren’t supporting Mexican businesses that would appreciate it much more.
I would also suggest that you refrain from dressing in traditional Mexican clothing, like the wearing of ponchos or sombreros, if you are not Mexican, because it is a form of cultural appropriation and it is not respectful. Cinco De Mayo is also a great time to reflect on if you have been contradicting yourself by taking advantage of Mexican culture and food while acting in ways that disrespect their heritage. Don’t disrespect the holiday by calling it “Cinco De Drinko” or using it as cute Instagram content.
Lastly, you need to remember that May 5th is not just an excuse for you to have a taco night, because it means so much more. As long as you are being deliberate and respectful, Cinco De Mayo is a very fun holiday to celebrate, no matter who you are.
How do you celebrate Cinco De Mayo? Let us know in the comments below!
For More On Cultural Appropriation And Holidays, Read These: