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Cinco de Mayo - not Mexican independence day after all

The Puebla Cathedral
The Puebla Cathedral

The festivities of Cinco de Mayo are soon upon us again! Although many people here in the United States believe that Cinco de Mayo is a celebration of Mexico’s gaining independence; actually, it is not. In the United States, this holiday is celebrated largely for marketing purposes. It is rumored that the Corona beer company is responsible for the extent of celebrating that goes on here in the United States.

Here is the real story:
After the Mexican-American war in 1846, 50 years after Mexico’s independence from Spain had already been established; Mexico fell on hard financial times. This was largely due to the Mexican civil war which left Mexico without much structure. Because of this economic crisis, Mexico borrowed a great deal of money from other countries to get back on its feet. In 1862 the European countries to which Mexico was indebted came to collect. Still suffering financially, Mexico was unable to repay the countries and issued vouchers instead of cash asking for more time. England and Spain accepted this offer, and left the country peacefully. France, however, invaded Mexico seeking total control.

Led by Napoleon III, the troops tried to make their way to the capital of Mexico City. Although outnumbered and out-armed, the Mexican soldiers at the state of Puebla, triumphed over the French forces; a true show of perseverance and determination. This battle took place on May 5, 1862 and is called La Batalla de Puebla. One year later, the French invaded again and eventually did occupy Mexico for a time.

The Cinco de Mayo holiday is to commemorate the bravery and fortitude of the Mexican soldiers at Puebla. As such, the celebration is more intensely celebrated there, in the city where the battle took place. The fiesta includes Mexican food, piñatas, mariachi bands, parades and fireworks. In some places there are reenactments of the battle where there are sometimes real casualties. Usually however, fruit is used as ammunition, so the worst that can happen is an orange upside the head.

Here in the United States, it is largely a reason to eat Mexican food and drink beer and margaritas. Locally, the four Nashville area Cinco de Mayo restaurants, along with numerous others, will celebrate Cinco de mayo with drink specials and a fiesta atmosphere including T-shirt giveaways.

Now you know! Carry on.

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