By: Ambar Aballo-Ruiz, Senior
After months of searching for the best hotels, finding perfect booking dates, and saving every penny, you are finally going to the vacation of your dreams: a week in Nuevo Leon, Mexico. Even better, the vacation’s starting on no better than Cinco de Mayo! You have fantasized about joining extravagant parties at every street corner filled with vibrant dancers, authentic street food, and lively mariachi bands.
When you finally arrive at your destination, you go to the nearest plaza and wait patiently by a restaurant for the festivities ahead. However, five hours pass and as the night falls, the streets remain barren. Nothing. Zero. Nada. You think to yourself: Why did they cancel the party? Do Mexicans have a sense of pride? Where are the virgin margaritas?
Well, the truth is that contrary to what the majority of U.S. citizens believe, Cinco de Mayo is not Mexico’s Independence Day. In fact, the general population of Mexico does not celebrate Cinco de Mayo at all.
What is the true origin of Cinco de Mayo?
According to an article written by John P. Schmal, a historian and genealogist at the Houston Institute of Culture, the holiday commemorates the Battle of Puebla, which occurred in 1862 when Mexican forces prevented the French army from conquering Mexico City and subsequently taking control of the entire nation. The battle was an unexpected victory for Mexico, especially considering that 4,000 Mexican soldiers defeated 6,000 soldiers from the French army.
An article written by Ruben “Tlakatekatl” Arellano, a renowned Chicano activist and professor with a PhD in history, outlines how the holiday was stripped of its original meaning. He illustrates how the celebrations that began in a small Mexican-American community in California blossomed into a large-scale holiday popular in the 1960s during the Chicano movement as a way to celebrate Mexican pride. It was only in the 1980s that companies, especially brewing companies, commercialized the holiday. That’s America! Making a profit from something that is made-up!
Today, on Cinco de Mayo, Americans by into the fake celebration, occasionally wearing cheap sombreros from Party City and swarming to the nearest bars. Still, while it’s great to acknowledge and honor some aspects of Mexico’s rich culture, it is still important that individuals know the true origin, a very small localized celebration, in order to respect the majority of Mexicans and prevent others from making stereotypical comments about the holiday.
Just remember, Mexico’s actual Day of independence is on September 16th. So, if you ever want to visit Mexico at its most vivacious time, go to the National Palace in Dolores Hidalgo, Mexico on the night of September 15th to experience the annual tradition called El Grito. As a part of the event, over thousands of citizens gather around this National Palace where the president recites Dolores Hidalgo’s Speech for Independence. Typically accompanied by beautiful fireworks and many street-food vendors, this authentic Mexican celebration will surely satisfy your wildest fantasies.
Cheers to your virgin margarita!
Arellano , Ruben A. “Mexican Patriots, the Chicano Movement, & Cinco De Mayo.” [ Mexika.org ],
3 June 2019, https://mexika.org/2018/05/05/mexican-patriots-the-chicano-movement-
Schmal, John P. “Cinco De Mayo: A Struggle For Freedom.” Traditions of Mexico - Cinco De
Mayo, Houston Institute of Culture , http://www.houstonculture.org/mexico/cincode
I am an avid reader with a passionate interest in cinema and TV production. I love Indian cuisine and shows such as Barry and The Haunting of Hill House.