Have you ever wondered why Cinco de Mayo is celebrated on May 5 every year in the USA and parts of Mexico? If so, you’re not alone. Based on my research, including several informal telephone surveys around Tennessee and beyond, Cinco de Mayo is hardly a household term for average Americans.
For the most part, responses to my questions about Cinco de Mayo could be classified as “Don’t know anything about Cinco de Mayo” and “Don’t even suspect anything about Cinco de Mayo.” That said, there were a few bright, shining exceptions to this general lack of knowledge. That alone was enough to motivate me to share some information with my vast North American reading audience on Cinco de Mayo as celebrated in the USA.
Cinco de Mayo celebrates the defeat of the French army by Mexican forces during the Battle of Puebla (Battalla de Puebla) in Mexico on May 5, 1862. It should not be, but often is confused with Mexico’s Independence Day. The ultimate Mexican victory and expulsion of French forces came more than five years later, leading to Mexico’s celebration of Independence Day on Sept. 16 every year.
Cinco de Mayo in the USA is also viewed as a day to “celebrate the culture, achievements and experiences of people with a Mexican background who live in the United States.” Many businesses seize on the commercial opportunities of the day to promote and publicize Mexican food, drinks and music.
Other activities on Cinco de Mayo focus on “traditional symbols of Mexican life, such as the Virgin de Guadalupe, and Mexican-Americans who have achieved fame, fortune and influence in the United States.”
Some of the largest Cinco de Mayo celebrations occur in cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose, and Sacramento, Calif., as well as Albuquerque, New Mexico, El Paso and San Antonio,Texas, Phoenix, Arizona, and Denver, Colo.
In all of these cities, a large portion of the population has Mexican roots. Predictably, they turn out in droves to celebrate Cinco de Mayo by hanging colorful banners and conducting classes to educate others on their heritage and pride. Entertainment includes Mexican music, dancing and lots of Mexican food and drinks.
So there you have it, the essence of Cinco de Mayo, as celebrated in the USA. In the words of that famous philosopher, Tanya Tucker, “It’s a little too late to do the right thing now,” because Cinco de Mayo 2017 was Friday. But hey, now you know enough to mark your calendar for food, fun and frolic, come Cinco de Mayo 2018.
Retired Army Col. Thomas B. Vaughn can be reached at email@example.com.