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Cinco de Mayo Gains Popularity around the World

Mexico's new epic filrm Cinco de Mayo: La Batalla, now distributed around the world.
Mexico's new epic filrm Cinco de Mayo: La Batalla, now distributed around the world.
Televisa

Cinco de Mayo has become one of the most popular holidays in the United States. Amazingly, Americans celebrated it even more than Mexico itself.

The popularity of Cinco de Mayo has crossed other borders, too, and undergone interesting adaptations.

The Cinco de Mayo Festival at Yoyogi Park in Tokyo, and at Tennoji Park in Osaka in Japan takes place during Japan’s Golden Week holidays (in fact, on the same day as the Japanese Day of the Child), with beer, tequila, Mexican cumbia, Latin salsa, and the incorporation of Peruvian marinera, Brazilian capoeira, and a Paraguayan bottle dance.

It is as if Cinco de Mayo had become “the” Latin American holiday par excellence.

Cinco de Mayo commemorates the Battle of Puebla, when an impoverished and exhausted Mexican army was able to defeat the French garrisons of Napoleon III (considered at the time the most powerful army in the world) on May 5th, 1862. France had invaded Mexico in support of Austrian Emperor Maximilian of Hapsburg, who had occupied the throne of Mexico at the request of the country's conservative faction. Mexico already had a democratically elected president, and a new battle for independence ensued.

Led by a brilliant 31 year old strategist, General Ignacio Zaragoza, the Mexican forces won this historic battle against the French, and were able to reclaim Mexico for the Mexican people and re-establish President Benito Juarez as President of Mexico.

As puzzling as it is to people in Mexico to see how the United States celebrates at such scale a holiday that is so uniquely Mexican, the explanation could be that by winning the Battle of Puebla, Mexico helped President Lincoln. By defeating the French army, Mexico successfully kept France from invading the US and supporting the Confederate Army in their efforts to secede from the Union during the American Civil War.

After the defeat of the French, President Lincoln sent a letter to President Juárez to personally thank him, Gen. Zaragoza, and the entire Mexican army for their defense of freedom, not only of Mexico, but of the United States as well.

Mexico celebrates Cinco de Mayo with an annual official parade and other civic ceremonies where army recruits swear loyalty to the Mexican flag. There are no parties or special menus in restaurant. In Mexico, Cinco de Mayo is exclusively a civic and school holiday.

Still in view of the popularity of Cinco de Mayo around the world, this year the City of Puebla in Mexico (the actual site of the famous battle) will organize a military parade with the participation of 2,700 musicians, over 1,000 military band students, 2,000 soldiers, and 150 charros (horse riders wearing typical Mexican attires). International artists such as Spanish tenor José Carreras, orchestra conductor Alondra de la Parra, Brazilian singer Gal Costa, Mexican composer Armando Manzanero and the Cinco de Mayo Philarmonic Orchestra will perform at this year´s Cinco de Mayo International Festival in Puebla, Mexico.

And now, the renowed Battle of Puebla has finally come to the screen with flying colors. “Cinco de Mayo: La Batalla” (Cinco de Mayo: The Battle), the new epic film, a production by Mexican media giant Televisa, is being distributed in other countries by Canadian company Raven Banner. Although spoken in Spanish, the film is subtitled in other languages, and is now being viewed in Germany, the Netherlands, Portugal, the UK, China, the US, and Japan.

“This production is at the same level as ‘Braveheart’”, said Michael Paszt, of Raven Banner. “This is such an ambitious epic with flawless production values, we’re honoured to be bringing the biggest Mexican film of all time to Canada,” says Raven Banner Entertainment’s Managing partner, Michael Paszt.

Based on solid historical research, the film has won the Audience Award at the Newport Beach Film Festival, and other awards at the Miami Film Festival, and at the Japan Latin Beat Festival Official Selection, at a cost of $10 million U.S. dollars, representing the most expensive film in the history of Mexican cinema. Kuno Becker´s performance as Ignacio Zaragoza is both moving and powerful, as he portrays a young general forced to face the powerful French invaders with nothing more than an exhausted army, a handful of weapons, and a masterful strategy, in spite of the death of his wife a few days before the battle.

"Cinco de Mayo: The Battle" made its Canadian premier in Toronto on May 2nd, 2014.

Cinco de Mayo, the holiday, is cheerfully celebrated all over Michigan. Ann Arbor, Saginaw, Grand Rapids, Livonia, and Flint are all holding their own festivals. There will even a Tigers Cinco de Mayo Celebration on May 5th, with live entertainment on the concourse near the Big Cat Course, and with a sale of special edition Cinco de Mayo t-shirts, as part of the new ¡Arriba Tigres! program designed to partner with organizations to benefit Hispanic communities in Michigan.

Celebrations in Mexicantown in Detroit began on Friday, May 2nd, at with a Cinco de Mayo Dinner at Centro Multicultural La Familia in Waterford, followed by a Cinco de Mayo concert on May 3rd in Detroit. Next comes the Annual Cinco de Mayo Parade On Sunday, May 4th, and the Cinco de Mayo Fun Run at Clark Park (also in Detroit).

Finally, all Mexicantown restaurants in Southwest Detroit will celebrate the Cinco de Mayo Fiesta on the actual anniversary of the Battle of Puebla on Monday, May 5th.