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Cinco de Mayo : The Secrets of Mexican Masks

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September 16th, is Mexico's official day of independence; however, history proves May 5th to be a better day for celebration. In 1848 Mexico was heavily in debt to Spain, England and France. Although Mexican President Benito Juárez expressed the need for time to pay the debt, France was determined to seize control of Mexico and sent troops into Mexico City. Seven thousand French army soldiers landed on the gulf coast of Mexico and began marching toward Mexico City. On May 5, 1862 they were met in Puebla and were defeated by Mexican General Ignacio Zaragoza and his heroic army of 4,500 Mexican soldiers.

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Parades and festivals are held all over the country on this day in honor of the battle of Puebla. Yesterday New York City celebrated with an annual parade.The real meaning behind the ritual dances and the colorful folk art masks worn during the parade is overlooked during the excitement taking place. Each mask tells a story. Masks depict the three races of Mexican history: the indigenous, European and African.

Masks depicting Mexico’s problematic colonial history represent Europeans, Spanish, and French. Many paraders wear ancestral masks that are created to resemble old men and women. Masks for female characters usually portray modest and virtuous women who abide by society’s norms or they are portrayed as vixens. These masks also depict famous rulers, animals, supernatural beings and creatures. See slide show to view the types of masks