More than margaritas: What exactly is Cinco de Mayo, and why do we celebrate?

Margaritas are probably the first thought on your mind when you hear the term “Cinco de Mayo.” And while your Fifth of May may be filled with Mexican food and “margs,” there’s more to the holiday than that which you consume.

So what is “Cinco de Mayo,” and why is it such a great excuse for us in the U.S. to down some tequila and tacos? Let’s take a look.

What is Cinco de Mayo?

The popular belief is that Cinco de Mayo is Mexico’s Independence Day. In actuality, Mexican independence is celebrated several months down the road on September 16. So what the heck is Cinco de Mayo then?

The fifth of May and popular holiday honors the Mexican army’s victory over the French forces. The Battle of Puebla against Napoleon III took place on May 5, 1852 during the Franco-Mexican War, which spanned 1861-1867.

Why Do We Celebrate Cinco de Mayo in the U.S.?

Believe it or not, while the holiday commemorates a Mexican victory, Cinco de Mayo is only a relatively minor celebration in Mexico. However, for those in the United States, May 5 has become a reason to party.

In the U.S., the holiday has evolved into a celebration of Mexican culture and heritage. The May 5 holiday is particularly popular in parts of the country with a large Mexican-American population.

But while Cinco de Mayo is very much an American holiday, there’s plenty of good reason. In fact, the Mexican victory has ties to the land of the free and the home of the brave, as the hero of the original Cinco de Mayo battle was a Texan.

The leader of the Mexican forces that overcame the superior French army, General Ignacio Zaragosa, was born near what is now Goliad, Texas. Additionally tying the holiday to the U.S. is the fact that the celebration of Cinco de Mayo began in the mid-19th century among Mexicans in California, according to David Hayes-Bautista, Professor of Medicine and Director of the Center for the Study of Latino Health and Culture at the University of California Los Angeles.

What are your plans for Cinco de Mayo 2017? Tell me what you’re up to this Friday and your go-to Cinco de Mayo faves in the comments!

Photo credit: Creative Commons

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