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Dismantling the Myth: The Truth about Cinco de Mayo

A very common misconception about Cinco de Mayo is that it celebrates Mexico’s Independence from Spain. But that’s actually on September 16, and it’s serious business for Mexicans. Do not mix these two up!

So what is Cinco de Mayo?

May 5 celebrates the triumph of Mexico’s army over the French Empire. The classic tale of the underdog winning the race.

Cinco de Mayo History 101

This day honors the Battle of Puebla, the first ever victory of Mexico over better-armed forces in May 5, 1862.

In Puebla — the birthplace of this holiday — the commemoration of this event is mostly ceremonial, often presenting military parades and local festivals. However, in the rest of Mexico, this day is practically overlooked.

Not many people know, but Cinco de Mayo is actually more popular in the US than it is in Mexico. Want to understand why? Here’s a few reasons:

Why the US Celebrates Cinco de Mayo

  • The victory of the outnumbered Mexicans against the French boosted the morale of the Hispanic community in the US during the Civil War. This is because the French Empire supported the Confederates, and so the success of Mexico’s troops over France constituted a blow for the Confederacy as well.
  • Following the Chicano Civil Rights Movement in the 60s and 70s, the popularity of Cinco de Mayo grew significantly. Since then, big corporations have exploited this festivity to enter the Hispanic market, specifically alcohol companies.
  • Not only Mexicans, but the entire Latino community has adopted Cinco de Mayo as a means of celebrating Latin-American pride in a fun setting where many cultures can come together and share.

CONVERSA the truth about cinco de mayo

How to Properly Celebrate

While there is nothing wrong with sharing holidays, it’s important that we know why we celebrate… and how! There is probably nothing cringier than watching TV hosts reducing a foreign holiday to just another excuse to throw a good fiesta.

Stay away from maracas, fake mustaches, and sombreros, and instead, maybe support authentic Mexican businesses. We won’t stop you from celebrating Mexican-American heritage on Cinco de Mayo, but make sure you are being respectful of Mexican culture and try to learn a few things from your Spanish-speaking friends while at it!

Researching yummy, authentic Mexican recipes and drinks is also a great idea to spend the day with friends… Food has a history of bringing communities together, after all!

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