What is Cinco de Mayo and why is it celebrated in the United States?: Sunday will be May 5, a day that in the United States is often confused with Mexico’s Independence Day. In fact, the historical moment that gave rise to this party occurred more than fifty years after the date on which the Mexican war of independence began.
What is Cinco de Mayo?
So here is what you need to know about May 5, including how it became a major economic driver for businessmen and beverage companies across the United States.
What is the importance of May 5?
May 5, which is not widely celebrated in Mexico, commemorates an unexpected victory over France at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862. The victory was inspiring for the Mexican forces (and those who supported them from afar), but it was brief, for France soon occupied Mexico for some years. Either way, May 5 continued to be celebrated in Puebla and, more interestingly, north of the border by some Americans of Mexican descent.
So when is the Independence of Mexico celebrated?
The country’s Independence Day is September 16, and it is a national holiday. On that date in 1810, a priest named Miguel Hidalgo harangued Mexico to rise up against Spain, which gave rise to the War of Independence that ended in 1821.
When did May 5 become popular in the United States?
In the early 1960s, many Mexican-American activists fighting in the civil rights movement in the United States used that day to demonstrate their pride in their roots. Almost two decades later, in 1989, an importer of Mexican beers such as Modelo or Corona launched an advertising campaign related to that celebration.
Initially, the campaign was targeted at Latinos, but later it was extended to a wider audience with television and print ads. This year, the Corona website has a clock with a “Countdown to the Corona de Mayo” during the hours leading up to May 5.
Why is It Celebrated in the United States?
The commercialization of May 5 (and the criticism of cultural stereotypes) has been very successful. The agency market research Nielsen reported that in 2013 Americans bought more than 600 million dollars in beer for May 5, rather than the Super Bowl or St. Patrick’s Day.
In 2012, David Hayes-Bautista, a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles campus, published a book titled El Cinco de Mayo: An American Tradition. There, he wrote that May 5 was a “fake holiday recently invented by beverage companies.”
The evolution of this celebration from a sincere display of patriotism to a rather corporate celebration has been, to say the least, irregular.
“I’m trying to understand better how that was lost so much,” Hayes-Bautista said in a phone call from Puebla, the site of the 1862 battle. “It’s as if July 4 was just about beer and hot dogs.”
Do Latinos Still Celebrate May 5?
Hayes-Bautista said many Latinos specifically avoid celebrating the day, in part due to generational oblivion of the origins of the holiday during the Civil War.
Another factor: May 5 celebrations recently sparked moments of racial insensitivity across the United States.
Recent episodes included an offensive tweet posted in 2017 by former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee. The party of a Baylor University fraternity called Cinco de Drinko (eventually the university admonished the fraternity) as well as a series of incidents on the campus of the University of New Hampshire, which caused the university to create a special operation for racial affairs.
Despite the controversies, many American cities and their Mexican communities will celebrate that day, including Portland, Oregon, and Denver, Colorado.
Hayes-Bautista was asked to imagine an improved May 5 and proposed that the party could continue to be part of the celebration, but with greater emphasis on the historical context of the party. “Let’s take May 5 back to its roots as a commemoration of civil rights and social justice,” he said.