What is Cinco de Mayo all about?

The Cinco de Mayo holiday is coming up on May 5.  It’s a huge celebration in Mexico – and also in the United States.  You don’t have to be of Mexican descent to enjoy the festivities that might be happening in northwest Arkansas or elsewhere.  But while most people have heard of Cinco de Mayo, not many of us know what the holiday is all about.

For that reason, here are some Cinco de Mayo trivia tidbits that you might find interesting.

Cinco de Mayo” means “the fifth of May.”

The primary reason for the celebration is to commemorate the Mexican army’s surprising defeat of French forces on May 5, 1862 at the Battle of Puebla.

The battle started over France’s occupation of Mexico after the Mexican-American War of 1846-1848 and the Reform War of 1858-1861.  The wars left Mexico nearly bankrupt and unable to pay foreign debt payments.  Britain and Spain let Mexico slide, but France invaded Mexico and set up a system to favor French interests.

It is commonly thought that Cinco de Mayo is the celebration of Mexico’s Independence Day.  This is incorrect.  Mexico’s Independence Day is celebrated on September 16.

In the Battle of Puebla, the Mexican army had 4,000 soldiers against France’s 8,000.

Since Mexico’s defeat of France, no European military force has invaded any country in the Americas.

Celebrations of Cinco de Mayo in America began in the late 1860s in California, where the holiday is a major event in modern times.

The holiday began to spread out of California in the 1950s and 1960s.  It became increasingly popular among non-Latinos in the 1980s, thanks in part to beer companies that tied their marketing and their products to the celebration.

On June 7, 2005, the U.S. Congress issued a concurrent resolution asking the president to issue a proclamation that would encourage all Americans to observe Cinco de Mayo with appropriate activates and ceremonies.

By 2006, there were at least 150 official Cinco de Mayo celebrations happening within the United States.

People in other parts of the world also celebrate the holiday in one way or the other.  Cinco de Mayo events have been noted in Canada, the Cayman Islands, the Caribbean, Jamaica, Australia, London, New Zealand and even Paris, France.

If you feel in the spirit, check local media for announcements of Cinco de Mayo celebrations in Fort Smith.  Go out and have a good time – and go easy on the beer if you’re driving!

Nick & Ellie