Cinco de Mayo, or the “Fifth of May,” is a rather intriguing Mexican annual celebration that is celebrated more in America than in Mexico. This popular holiday is held on May 5th and it commemorates the Mexican Army’s unlikely victory over the French Empire at the Battle of Puebla in 1862, while the annual celebration first started a year later in – get this – Los Angeles, California.
Cinco de Mayo is a pretty wild holiday in the States during which people from all over the world come to celebrate Mexican culture, Mexican traditions, and (perhaps most importantly) Mexican food and drinks!
But the craziest thing about Cinco de Mayo is that this annual celebration is a pretty quiet one in Mexico. They don’t go crazy every year on May 5th, in fact they are quite low-key about the whole shindig. Although students get a day off, all government offices and banks work normally like any other day of the year. The only Mexican place that actually has parades and fiestas is the city of Puebla where you can enjoy a military parade and witness a mock battle commemorating the famous battle of Puebla.
But Why Do Americans Celebrate Cinco de Mayo So Vigorously?
When it comes to Americans and popular products (Cinco de Mayo in America can be seen as a product), it is all about marketing. Since the U.S. harbors a great chunk of the Mexican population and there is a huge number of citizens of Mexican descent living in America, it is only natural that Mexican holidays find their audiences in the U.S. as well.
Much like the whole planet celebrates Irish culture for Saint Patrick’s Day and uses it as a legit excuse to get wasted and party hard, Cinco de Mayo developed in a similar way here in the United States. However, many perceive it as a Mexican-American celebration rather than a just a Mexican one.
The History and Importance of Cinco de Mayo in America
Many historians see the Battle of Puebla as one of the major turning points in the U.S. Civil War. Namely, when the Battle of Puebla happened in 1862, the U.S. Civil War was taking place, which means that the French presence in Mexico was no coincidence. It was actually a strategic move via which the French could support the Confederate Army. However, they were defeated at the Battle of Puebla, which helped in fending off the French during which time the U.S. Union forces were able to advance.
This is why Cinco de Mayo as a celebration first began in the U.S. – to express solidarity with Mexico against the French army. As soon as the holiday was born, it continued to take place once a year, while at some point during the 1930s it evolved into a genuine celebration of Mexican identity, and was seen as an opportunity to raise the level of ethnic consciousness.
The Commercialization of Cinco de Mayo
During the 50s and 60s, the holiday reached a bi-national status and it was used as a fun and commercially interesting way of strengthening the relations between the two countries and building Mexican-American pride. The true commercialization of Cinco de Mayo started when the festival acquired corporate sponsors, while during the 1980s it completely evolved in a wide-scale celebration we know and love today.
And the best thing about Cinco de Mayo is – while it is a huge and wild celebration of Mexican culture, traditions, food and alcoholic drinks here in America – it is pretty much an unpopular, low-key holiday in Mexico. But, in conclusion, we don’t see anything bad in the fact that Americans like to go crazy and celebrate Cinco de Mayo with such fanfare. Quite the opposite, actually.
We hope we managed to answer the titular question: why do Americans celebrate Cinco de Mayo? For more fun articles like this one, check out our blog, and of course – download LitApp!