Today is May 5th and if you live in the United States, you are probably gearing up for a night of margaritas, Mexican beer, and tacos to celebrate Cinco de Mayo. Personally I find this holiday both fun and a little frustrating. As a person of Mexican descent, I love when people in the United States celebrate something that is, at its core, a bit of Mexican history. This country is never very kind towards immigrants and Mexican people are probably one of the most disliked demographics in the country. So, the fact that people want to celebrate a day associated with Mexican history is pretty cool.
But I find it frustrating too. Most people have no idea what Cinco de Mayo actually represents and just use it as an excuse to drink. Not only that, you are bound to see one or more buffoons dressed up in sombreros and ponchos. That is especially frustrating because it perpetuates negative and untrue stereotypes about the Mexican people. We are a very strong, very proud people and sometimes I wish Americans would show more respect. In any case, the good side of it outweighs the bad, in my opinion. Living in a pretty racist country can be rough but at least the country is willing to accept certain aspects of other cultures in the name of fun.
RULE: Don’t try to dress up like a Mexican…especially if it involves a sombrero and poncho. That’s just racist and no better than black face.
If you want to know a little more about the holiday so many Americans love to celebrate, then take a look at the following 6 facts. Learn a little something today and then go enjoy some great tacos while celebrating Mexican culture!
1) It isn’t Mexican Independence Day.
Most Americans think Cinco de Mayo is Mexican Independence Day but it’s not. Mexican Independence Day is on September 16 and is a HUGE deal. It’s much more important to the Mexican people then Cinco de Mayo. On May 5, 1862, Mexico won a battle at Puebla during the Franco-Mexican War. It was unexpected because the Mexican militia was heavily outnumbered by the French. But, in the end, the French won the war and occupied the region for five years.
2) It’s not really a big deal in Mexico.
It’s not even a federal holiday in Mexico. Though it was an unlikely battle won by the Mexican militia, it really isn’t celebrated in Mexico. All businesses are open and most people go about their days like normal. Any recognition of the day occurs with political speeches and battle reenactments. Think of it like this, in the US, we don’t celebrate the Battles of Lexington and Concord or the Battle of Gettysburg. It’s more of a day of remembrance and honor.
3) Except in Puebla…it is a big deal there.
In Puebla, the day is a much bigger deal and memorials are held as well as some celebrations. The battle actually took place there and is a great source of pride for the area.
4) The largest Cinco de Mayo celebration is held in the US, Not Mexico.
Yeah, that’s right. The largest celebration is held in Los Angeles. The Festival de Fiesta Broadway draws in over 300,000 people. Whoa! That’s a lot. Other large cities in the US also hold large celebrations.
5) The most traditional Cinco de Mayo dish isn’t what you think.
In the US, when people think of what to eat on Cinco de Mayo, they immediately think of tacos. Tacos are delicious! Even I enjoy a good meal of (authentic) tacos on Cinco de Mayo. But the most traditional dish for the holiday is not tacos. It’s mole (pronounced MOH/leh). Mole is a thick sauce made of chili peppers and containing other ingredients such as orange juice, Coca-Cola, and chocolate. It’s served over chicken and is pretty delicious.
So, there you have it…the truth about Cinco de Mayo. I hope you take these facts and celebrate the holiday anyway! In my view, anything that helps people embrace Mexican culture is awesome. Just try to be more sensitive when it comes to dressing like racial stereotypes.
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