5 surprising facts about Cinco de Mayo

5 May

Above: Cinco de Mayo festival at Texas A&M University (photo by Memorial Student Center, Texas A&M University, used under CC BY 2.0 licence)

1.  It marks a small but stunning victory.
 Many people celebrate Mexican culture on May 5 each year, but not many know the story behind it. On Cinco de Mayo (pronounced ‘singko de maa-yo’; Spanish for the 5th of May) in 1862, Mexico defeated France at the Battle of Puebla. The fighting lasted just three hours, and it was a stunning victory over a leading imperial superpower. The war was over Mexico’s debt. It owed money to France, Spain and England. The latter two countries negotiated a deal, but France resorted to force – bad idea! France lost nearly 500 people in the battle – about five times as many as Mexico.

2.  The victory was short-lived.
France later seized control of Mexico and placed it under the rule of emperor Maximilian I. But that didn’t last very long either – three years later, in 1867, Maximilian was executed.

3. Cinco de Mayo is not Mexico’s independence day. It’s not even a major national holiday. Since 1825, Mexico has observed September 16 as its independence day. On September 16, 1810, Miguel Hidalgo, a professor and Catholic priest, gave a speech called “Grito de Dolores” (the cry of Dolores), which was a call for freedom from Spanish control. Dolores was a town whose poverty appalled Hidalgo. He tried teaching the locals to grow olives and grapes, but these crops were discouraged because Spain exported them. Eventually Hidalgo travelled across Mexico and gathered an army of 90,000 farmers.

Above: Mexico City decked up for the 200th anniversary of the declaration of independence from Spanish colonial rule in 2010 (photo by Uwebart, used under CC BY-SA 3.0 licence)

4.  Cinco de Mayo is a bigger celebration in the US than in Mexico.
In Mexico, it is a relatively minor holiday, but in the US, it’s celebrated in many cities, including Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, and New York City. George W. Bush was the first US president to honour the holiday in the White House. Popular US celebrations often feature food and drinks commonly associated with Mexico, such as tacos, guacamole, and tequila. Over 34 million (nearly 11%) of the US population claims Mexican ancestry, and more than 60% of Mexican-Americans live in California and Texas, which share a border with Mexico.

Above: Baxter, an industrial robot, tries to play bartender at a Cinco de Mayo party in 2013 (photo by Steve Jurvetson, venture capitalist. Used under CC BY 2.0 licence)

5.  Cinco de Mayo is now an international celebration.
In Vancouver, Canada, there is an annual skydiving event on this day, and in the Cayman Islands, an air guitar competition.

The video below discusses some interesting facts about Cinco de Mayo celebrations in the US


BY: BrainGain Staff Writer

No comments yet

Leave a Reply