In America, Cinco de Mayo is believed to be Mexican Independence Day. It is widely celebrated, recreating Mexican food, drinks, and dressing up or decorating with Mexican-inspired costumes or decorations. The truth is that in Mexico, this holiday is pretty low-key and mainly ceremonial.
The celebration comes from commemorating the victory by the Mexican Army over the French Army on May 5, 1862, under the leadership of General Ignacio Zaragoza. Normally in Mexico, this celebration is uneventful except for Puebla, where they mark the occasion by beginning a series of art and food festivals, but the rest of the country doesn’t do much. There are some military parades, and in schools, children remember the battle one way or another as a civic event.
I must confess that before coming to the States, I never understood why people would get so excited about this holiday. After living abroad and experiencing how much one can miss the roots and traditions of your home country, I’ve come to understand that although this celebration is promoted by the alcohol industry and marketing has made it widely popular, It is also a way for Hispanic people, specifically Mexican American people, to get noticed and to have an opportunity to celebrate their heritage with everyone.
No, it’s not our Independence Day, which is actually in September. Still, it is a day where people can enjoy our food, traditions, look at some of our national dresses and costumes, buy our beers and other drinks, and enjoy some good music and food with their loved ones.
Realizing this makes me feel so happy that I can experience other cultures and understand where some traditions and celebrations come from. Rather than diminishing or making fun of it, I have come to see it through an American’s eyes. I still don’t celebrate it because I make a bigger deal in September, since that has been our tradition since forever, but my perception has changed.