Every May 5th, numerous Mexican-themed restaurants and clubs in the U.S. host Cinco de Mayo celebrations but few Americans know the real meaning behind this important Mexican holiday. In fact, the Cinco de Mayo celebration is the second most important political holiday behind Mexico’s Independence Day celebration.
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Cinco de Mayo commemorates an important military victory the Mexican troops won over the invading French. This event took place in Puebla, Mexico on May 5th, 1862. Former President Porfirio Diaz used this day each year of his presidency to give speeches, dedicate monuments, announce new public projects and create new laws.
Beginning in 1931, festivities in Puebla were established to remind Mexican citizens of this historic event, including reenacting the French/Mexican battle. While Spain wanted control of Mexico because of its proximity to the Pacific Ocean and usefulness to Asian trade, French Emperor Napoleon III wanted Mexico for the purpose of owning another country and to show other countries how they too, could be under his control.
Additionally, French was the main creditor with respect to Spain and New Spains (Mexico) debt. Napoleon wanted to take Mexico as a way of reclaiming lost assets. As the Cinco de Mayo celebration grew in popularity, it reached across Mexico’s borders into the U.S. and was first officially observed in the States in 1922. Since then, it is a way for Mexican-Americans to celebrate their heritage and honor their ancestors who fought in the war.
Other American businesses see this opportunity as a commercial event to increase food and beverage sales. For Mexican citizens, while this is a very important holiday, it is one of many. With such a diverse population and rich heritage, Mexican people celebrate many festivals and holidays: religious, political, social and familial. In fact, on average, a festival is held in Mexico once every nine to ten days. Mexicos Cinco de Mayo Celebration!