The Meaning of Cinco De Mayo

David Simmonds

Today, the 5th of May,  is the day when we drink green beer, off-key Danny Boy and scarf corned-beef and cabbage…no, forget that, I’m getting my important imported celebrations confused.

Cinco de Mayo, which is NOT Mexican Independence Day (September 16) as many believe, marks a battle between the imperialist 6,000 man French army and 5,000 brave Mestizo and Zapotec natives, led by Ignacio Zaragoza in the Batalla de Puebla, just south of Mexico City. Mexico had recently called for a moratorium on payments due to Spain, England and France for loans that had been made to the country. Spain and England agreed to this, but not  the midget Napolean-led France. The wanted Mexico for themselves, in part as an in-your-face message to the United States. So the battle ensued on May 5, 1862, with the rag-tag locals defeating the mighty French. Unfortunately, it was a short-lived victory, as three days later the French prevailed and marched into the capital and took control with the help of the conservative Mexican party.

I have been in Mexico for Cinco de Mayo many times, and have never seen a party commemorating the day; and this in a country that needs little excuse to have a fiesta. It has become more of a U.S. thing, pushed forward by American Hispanics, frat houses and beer manufacturers. I remember reading somewhere that a fraternity at Long Beach State in SoCal started it all about 25 years ago as an excuse to throw a bash…sounds about right to me.

Nonetheless, its a fun day and if it makes people with Mexico roots proud of their ancestral country, that is a good thing. Just know what you’re celebrating. Salud!