WASHINGTON — Happy Cinco de Mayo!
In the United States, the “fifth of May” is generally celebrated by eating tacos and drinking margaritas.
For Mexicans and Latinos, however, the holiday has an entirely different significance. Here are some common misconceptions about the holiday:
Cinco de Mayo is Mexico’s Fourth of July
No, nor is it the country’s “birthday.”
Cinco de Mayo is a celebration of the Mexican army’s victory over the French in the Battle of Puebla in 1862.
It was the first time in history that the fledgling Mexican army was able to hold off and beat a powerful military force. Though they lost the battle, France eventually occupied Mexico for three years, but the victory in that battle is still celebrated in Puebla de Zaragoza, Mexico.
(As for when Mexico’s Independence Day is, you’ll have to wait a few more months. Mexico won its independence from Spain on September 16, 1810, over fifty years before the Battle of Puebla.)
All Latinos Celebrate Cinco de Mayo
Actually, most Mexicans don’t celebrate it, let alone most Latinos.
It’s a regional holiday that has been homogenized into American culture and has turned into a drinking holiday much like St. Patrick’s Day.
That’s not to say that it’s not celebrated by Latinos, but the majority of Latinos in the U.S. celebrate it in the same way that Americans do because, if nothing else, it’s a great excuse to party and eat burritos.
However, some Mexican-American communities have taken the holiday back as a way to celebrate their cultural identity, holding parades and festivals to highlight the rich culture of the country.
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