If you find yourself in a bar on May 5th, chances are you will find it littered with rainbow-coloured banners, sombreros and very...happy...patrons. Chances are just as likely that everyone is there to participate in a celebration of Mexican independence, Cinco De Mayo.
Which would be wrong.
What is Cinco de Mayo celebrating, then?
Cinco de Mayo is actually commemorating a battle that took place on May 5, 1862, known as the Battle of Puebla. During the time, Mexico’s President, Benito Juarez, deferred on his debt payments to European governments, causing French forces to invade the country in retaliation. The Mexican army won under almost improbable circumstances and as such, Cinco de Mayo was born.
Now about that pesky independence day rumour –
Mexico actually declared independence from Spain on Sept 16, 1810. That’s a whopping 52 years earlier than the Battle of Puebla.
Surely they must have big celebrations across Mexico?
Cinco de Mayo isn’t a big deal in its home country – it’s not even a federal holiday. Everything is, more or less, business as usual.
So, why do we celebrate it widely in Canada and the U.S.?
The Battle of Puebla took place during the same time period as the American Civil War (1861-1865) and when word reached California of the Mexican win, it became an inspiration for the Union forces. The battle was commemorated on its first anniversary in Los Angeles and Cinco de Mayo has been a popular holiday ever since.
What if I told you I wanted to celebrate the holiday in Mexico?
If experiencing Cinco de Mayo in its full glory remains on your bucket list, head to Puebla – the original site – on the fifth. About a two-hour drive from Mexico City, you’ll find a city bursting with colourful costumes, tacos, fireworks, salsa dancing and a parade. Just three short years away from celebrating its half millennium, Puebla is becoming a tourist hub in its own right. But the biggest influx in tourism remains the festivities – bringing more than 300,000 visitors to the city throughout the month of May.
Okay, now tell me some fun facts.
Did you know that in the U.S., the holiday has evolved into a celebration of the blending of Mexican-American culture? So much so that on the day of festivities 81 million pounds of avocados are consumed and $2.9 billion is spent on margaritas each year.
Also, Cinco de Mayo is one of more than 365 festivals celebrated by people of Mexican descent.
And just in case your Spanish is rusty, "Cinco de Mayo" is the literal translation for the "fifth of May."
So feel free to get out there and enjoy your bottomless guac and chips – just cross your heart and swear on your grave that you won’t be celebrating Mexico’s Independence Day.
You might also like: