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Cinco de Mayo (May 5th)

  1. What does Cinco de Mayo celebrate? Why is it observed on this date?

  1. What is the common misconception about Cinco de Mayo? Why do you think this exists?

  2. Why did France invade Mexico?

  1. What happened at the Batalla de Puebla?

5. Is Cinco de Mayo more popular in the United States or in Mexico? Why?

6. What is the significance of Cinco de Mayo? What does it represent or symbolize?

Origins of Cinco de Mayo

Cinco de Mayo celebrates Mexico's independence, but it is not Mexican
Independence Day. Mexico asserted its independence from Spain on September 16,

1810. The festivities on May 5 are about another battle for independence -- a battle fought against the French in 1862.

After the 1846 Mexican-American War, in which boundaries were clarified after Texas
became the 28th U.S. state, Mexico entered a period of political and financial hardship. The Mexican Civil War lasted from 1858 to 1861 and left Mexico without a stable support
structure. Due to its poor economy, Mexico borrowed a great deal of money from other
countries. Among those countries were England, Spain and France. In 1862, all three
European powers came to collect their money. Their navies arrived in Mexico to demand
payment and land to settle the debts, but Mexico offered vouchers instead, essentially
asking for more time. England and Spain accepted and went home; France invaded,
seeking total control of Mexico.

Under Napoleon III, French troops began at the shore and tried to make their way to

Mexico City. Before they could get to the capital, they were stopped at the state of Puebla,
where a major battle took place on May 5, 1862:La Batalla de Puebla. Outnumbered and
out armed, the Mexican soldiers at Puebla, under the command of General Ignacio
Zaragoza Seguin, managed to defeat the French forces. Ultimately, the Mexican victory at
Puebla only delayed the French invasion of Mexico city, and a year later, the French
occupied Mexico. But the Mexican men who fought at Puebla nonetheless defied the odds
to defend its independence. Cinco de Mayo is a time to recognize the bravery of those

who fight against oppression. Cinco de Mayo celebrates that bravery and

determination, and commemorates Mexico's fight to ward off imperialist forces.

Celebrating Cinco de Mayo

In Mexico, Cinco de Mayo is primarily observed in the state of Puebla, where Zaragoza’s

unlikely triumph occurred. In the United States, however, it has taken on significance—

and major commercial value—as a celebration of Mexican culture and heritage,

particularly in areas with substantial Mexican-American populations. Revelers mark

the holiday with parades, parties, mariachi music, Mexican folk dancing and traditional

foods such as tacos and mole poblano. In towns throughout Mexico, the fiesta includes
Mexican food, such as Mole Poblano, Mexican music, including mariachi bands, parades,
piñatas for the kids and fireworks at the end of the day. In places like Puebla and Mexico
City, there is a reenactment of the battle. Men dress as French and Mexican soldiers and generals, and women wear the clothing of the soldaderas, the women who cooked for and looked after the soldiers in wartime. In some representations, the Mexican soldiers carry machetes and old gun-powder rifles, and the French soldiers carry bags with wine bottles sticking out. It is said that in some of these staged battles, there are actual casualties. In other reenactments, fruit is used as ammunition, so the worst injury possible is an apple to
the head. The Mexican president gives a speech in Mexico City that is televised
nationwide, and the day ends with shouts of "¡Viva Mexico!"

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