Related: Goings On, History

Cinco de Mayo


Feliz Cinco de Mayo!

A church spire in Puebla, Mexico.

Puebla, Mexico. Courtesy Encyclopedia Britanncia.

Contrary to popular belief, Cinco de Mayo is not Mexican Independence Day (which is celebrated on September 16). Actually, Cinco de Mayo is meant to commemorate an 1862 skirmish called the Battle of Puebla. Led by General Ignacio Zaragoza, a rag-tag group of Mexican militiamen defeated a well-equipped contingent of French forces outside the village of Puebla. Although the Battle of Puebla was minor — and the overarching conflict lasted more than five years afterwards — the victory was viewed as symbolic of Mexican tenacity and independence.

Like St. Patrick’s Day, Cinco de Mayo (as we know it) has evolved as an American holiday and is distinct from its Mexican counterpart. In Mexico, the day is celebrated primarily in (and near) the town of Puebla with parades, speeches, and reenactments. In the US, the holiday rose to popularity during the ‘50s and ‘60s as a way to build cultural bridges, express Chicano pride, and voice anti-imperialist sentiments. During the ‘80s Cinco de Mayo saw widespread commercialization and developed into the full-blown, Corona-sponsored event we know today.

Cinco de Mayo dancers in L.A.

Cinco de Mayo festivities in Los Angeles. Courtesy Encyclopedia Britannica.

Ultimately, Cinco de Mayo is about a lot of things. Yes, it’s a great day to kick back with some chips and guacamole. But it’s also about something much bigger: It is a day for Mexican-Americans — and other Latinos — to bond over common culture, and to share that culture with others. It’s a day for community celebration.

Join the celebration by heading to the National Mall between 12 noon and 6pm today for the National Cinco de Mayo Festival. There will be music, dancing, arts & crafts, food, games, and more.

You can also learn more about the cultural legacy underlying Cinco de Mayo by checking out these Trinity resources:

For more titles, browse the shelves in room 101 of the library. Look under call numbers beginning with 972 and/or F1200 for materials relating to Mexico and Mexican history. Or, search the catalog for “Mexico” under “Subject Heading” and browse the resulting list of topics

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