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The Truth Behind Cinco de Mayo

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Today is Cinco de Mayo – a day used by many as an excuse to break out their sombreros, eat tacos, and sip on margaritas. In the US, festivities are recognized across the country, with some of the largest parties happening in Los Angeles, Denver, and El Paso. Globally, Cinco de Mayo is celebrated from Vancouver to Tokyo, London to New Zealand.

However, one place that doesn’t celebrate Cinco de Mayo is Mexico.

A common misconception is that Cinco de Mayo is Mexico’s Independence Day. In reality, Mexico’s Independence Day is in September and is the largest national holiday for the country – much more so than the 5th of May.

So what does Cinco de Mayo actually celebrate? The unlikely victory of the Mexican Army over the French at the Battle of Puebla happened on May 5th, 1862. The French-Mexican war lasted from 1861-1867 so although this did not end the war, it gave the Mexican Army pride and encouragement that lead to its eventual success.

Although Cinco de Mayo is labeled as a Mexican holiday, the only part of Mexico that celebrates on the fifth of May is the city of Puebla. They hold large parades surrounded by vendors selling assortments of Mexican dishes. Sometimes there are reenactments of the battle between the French and Mexican Armies.

While the rest of the world has turned the 5th of May into a celebration of Mexican culture and heritage with parades, mariachi music, and street festivals, most of Mexico treats the day like any other, with the possibility of some added amusement.

As Jack Fraind, Vice President of Dwellworks’ Latin American region puts it, “Although it isn’t celebrated in Mexico, it is amusing to see everyone else use the date as a reason to make tacos and guacamole and have a party!”

Want to learn more about the practices of other cultures? Check out our Intercultural Services!

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