Cinco de Mayo Day
El Cinco de Mayo (“The Fifth of May” in Spanish) is a national celebration in Mexico and increasingly, as the Latin population of the United States grows, in the U.S., too. Cinco de Mayo is especially widely celebrated in the southwestern United States. Cinco de Mayo commemorates the victory of Mexican forces, led by General Ignacio Zaragoza, over French occupational forces in the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862.
Many people incorrectly believe that Cinco de Mayo is Mexico’s Independence Day, but that holiday is on September 16th. Cinco de Mayo is celebrated on May 5th in remembrance of the legendary battle Battle of Puebla.
On May 5, 1862, a Mexican force of 4,500 men was greatly outnumbered by 6,000 men from the well trained forces of Napoleon III’s French Army. The four hour battle that would be known as the Battle of Puebla ended in both a moral and physical victory for the Mexican Army under 33 year old General Ignacio Zaragoza.
Mexican and U. S. observances
Of course, Cinco de Mayo is celebrated vigorously in the state of Puebla, Mexico. There are some observances across Mexico to varying degrees, but none that match the celebrations in Puebla. These observances focus largely on food and drink, as well as music and dancing.
In the United States, much like St. Patrick’s Day, Cinco de Mayo is observed by many Americans regardless of their ethnicity. This is particularly true along the Border States where there are large Mexican populations. The largest of these celebrations are found in big cities such as Los Angeles, California; San Antonio, Texas; Houston, Texas; and Salt Lake City, Utah. Although Cinco de Mayo is no more an official holiday than St. Patrick’s Day in the United States, many cities nonetheless display Cinco de Mayo banners while their school districts hold special events to educate students about the occasion, especially in the Spanish language classes.
Commercial interests in the United States and Mexico now capitalize on the growing popularity of Cinco de Mayo by advertising their products and services with an emphasis on foods, beverages, and music. However, many multi-ethnic communities hold special events and celebrations that instead focus upon Mexican culture, especially its music and regional dancing. The ballet folkl?rico and mariachi demonstrations that are held annually at the Plaza del Pueblo de Los Angeles near Olvera Street in Los Angeles, California, are an example of this highlighting of Mexican tradition.
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