Cinco de Mayo Is Actually More American Than You Think
Very soon, Americans all over the country will put on their sombreros, drink margaritas, and stuff their faces with tacos in the name of Cinco de Mayo. What most of them don’t know is that many Hispanics are not doing the same.
Many Americans believe that Cinco de Mayo is a celebration of Mexico’s independence day, but it’s really not. Mexico’s actual independence day is September 16, and it is a highly celebrated holiday there, unlike Cinco de Mayo.
May 5, the 156-year-old holiday, is actually the anniversary of the day of Mexico’s victory at the Battle of Puebla. The Mexican troops defeated the strongest army in the world at the time, the French.
Alexander Aviña, an associate professor in Latin American history at ASU, said, “Mexican populations in California and throughout the Southwest started to celebrate it as an affirmation of Mexican heritage within territories that had just been conquered two decades before by the United States.”
According to Beliefnet, Cinco de Mayo is only celebrated in one of the 31 Mexican states, making it much more popular in America than in Mexico. There are more than 47,000 Mexican restaurant locations all across the United States. Los Angeles, San Jose, San Francisco, San Antonio, Sacramento, Phoenix, Albuquerque, Denver and El Paso are just some of the cities throughout the country’s south-western regions where the holiday is widely celebrated.
“Mexicans are usually surprised by the magnitude of the celebrations of Cinco de Mayo in the United States,” said Margarita Sanchez, a former journalist from Colombia who is now a Spanish professor at Wagner College.
Some people might see this as a problem, and even culture appropriation, because most Americans don’t really know why they are celebrating. It seems that many in the Hispanic community don’t have a problem with the celebration of their culture, though.
“I’m not one to say don’t party, don’t have a great time,” Alexander Aviña said. “I’ll be happy if people have some sort of basic level of historical understanding of why it is being celebrated.”
Margarita Sachez also stated, “Even if many in the United States don’t understand the historical background, it is an opportunity to celebrate the rich contributions made to America by the heritage of Mexican culture in this country.”
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