Culture: Why Do Americans Celebrate Cinco de Mayo?

I’ve been living in Cancun for six years now. I was living in Mexico City, capital of Mexico, for about 10.5 years. I’ve everything from frequented fancy, celebrity-filled restaurants to the bars “de mala muerte” (dives). I’ve been in many a nook and cranny of that bizarre, congested, smog-filled city of absolute wonder and beauty and never have I ever had been invited to a party nor had a day off from work or school because of Cinco de Mayo.

Cinco de Mayo celebrates the Battle of Puebla, in Puebla, Mexico, when Napoleon III wanted to sway Mexico to European favor and the way he decided to do that was to take the government. The French were stopped in Puebla in 1862, hence this momentous day.

I’ve been searching about the internet for how Cinco de Mayo became such a major thing in the States. It seems that a group of Pueblans in California decided to celebrate their history and it stuck. Now, I’m not sure if that’s true, given the sometimes audacious nature of information on the internet so don’t quote me on that one. I’m not saying it’s bad to celebrate but it’s like a group of Pennsylvanians going to Argentina and doing Gettysburg reenactments and the anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg becoming a national Argentinean holiday.

I don’t think I ever got days off for July 1-3, when the battle was, when I was growing up in California.

I mention all this because there are a lot of promo sales and one that caught my attention was this one from a fashion page I follow called PopSugar.

PopSugar Viva Mexico Picks

PopSugar Viva Mexico Picks. Attention to the necklace, if you please.

The necklace in the middle struck my eye. It says “Viva Mexico!” (correctly accented) at the top so why is there what clearly looks to be a llama on that necklace (hella expensive, in my opinion)? Llamas are native to South America and typically used in Peru.

From Lima to Cancun, it’s over 2,300 miles.


The general feel of the holiday is that it’s used to celebrate all Spanish-speaking cultures. A shame and a bit of an insult when you consider the offhanded possibility that someone, ignorant of history, may come up to a Uruguayan and ask how they celebrate Cinco de Mayo.

So in a way, by writing this, I want to apologize to all those Spanish-speakers in the US. I’m sorry that all of you have been misunderstood (much like I have been, at one point, here in this country) and have, for one day, been collectively made out to love eating spicy food (most from South America don’t even eat chili peppers), wear wide-brimmed red, white and green colored straw hats and ponchos and drink tequila, Corona or Dos Equis.

The fiestas, I don’t believe, I have to apologize for. 😉

So whatever reason you celebrate it for, I just hope from now on out, you celebrate it because you believe history is worth remembering and, perhaps, worth questioning.

PopSugar Viva Mexico Picks 2

PopSugar Viva Mexico Picks 2. Center bottom: A Chili Pepper Dress: Seriously?


2 thoughts on “Culture: Why Do Americans Celebrate Cinco de Mayo?

  1. La batalla de Puebla es como la batalla de Gettysburg. Tengo sorpresa porque ahora en todos los noticieros, digamos, ABC, NBC of CBS durante el día de hoy, 5 de mayo hablaron sober la fiesta de 5 de mayo. Caro, no dijeron sober Los hechas historico, quiz as por temor a commenter in error en cadena nacional. Lo que puedo comentar es que 5 de mayo fue una fecha para conmemorar parte de los movimientos chicanos en California. Se escogió 5 de mayo y no el día de independencia para no crear conflictos de intereses con dos fechas de independencia a celebrar en EEUU. Debo decir que a mis catorce años viviendo en EEUU hasta ahora se habla mas públicamente sobre 5 de mayo. Cuando llegue aquí era como un estigma, algo que no se debía de mencionar ni en los medios de comunicación.

    • Es curioso, Javi, pero debo de confesar que tambien yo soy culpable por los errores garrafales de preguntar a gente no-mexicano de que hacen el 5 de mayo. Saque mi edicion de la Historia general de Mexico (y perdon que no uso acentos pero mi teclado no los trae) del ColMex y a esta batalla, en 1548 cuartillas, la mencion de la batalla se resume en 8 cuartillas. Me llama la atencion cuanto se ha vuelto tanto una parte de la cultura, tal vez debido a la mercadotecnia de las baratas de Cinco de Mayo que ahora veo en muchas tiendas estadounidenses.

      Me alegra, sin embargo, que ya se estan explicandolo, aunque sea un poco mas.

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