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How is Cinco de Mayo celebrated in the US?

Celebrating and Revisiting the Significance of Cinco de Mayo (2024)

May is a significant month in Latin history and the 5th of this month marks an important moment in the Mexican resistance to colonial domination. With bars, restaurants, schools, and cities resounding with the sound of Maracas and filled with colorful Mexican fiesta decorations, the day is dedicated to celebrating Mexicans.

With May approaching soon, what better time to revisit the importance of Cinco de Mayo for Mexican people?

In this blog, we will delve into a little detail of what happened on the 5th of May in Puebla, how the day defines Mexican culture, and how to celebrate it in 2024.

Time for a Lesson on History

Cinco de Mayo, translated as 5th of May, is the day when Mexicans defeated French forces in Puebla which is located southeast of Mexico City. The day has a direct link to a decision taken by Mexican President Benito Juárez when he suspended payment of foreign debt as his country had been in ruins after two consecutive years of civil war.

Consequently, the colonial nations UK, France, and Spain attacked the region to forcibly extract the payments. Despite the UK and Spain withdrawing soon after, French forces, under the rule of Napoleon III, had plans to conquer the nation and establish a monarchy that would be pro-French.

General Ignacio Zaragoza, leading a poorly equipped group, intercepted the French forces heading to Mexico City, 80 miles southeast of the capital, at Puebla. The interception led to a fight that lasted over a year and resulted in the death of thousands of elite French military personnel. Despite the fact that this victory didn’t deter the eventual French victory, it served as a major trigger in fueling the Mexican resistance.

How is Cinco de Mayo celebrated in the US?

This day is mostly celebrated in California, Southwest areas with large populations of Mexican Americans. This is fitting because in the 1800s, the Latinos in California were strong adversaries of both the Confederate and the French, and had financially helped Juárez’s army, so the victory of the battle at Puebla was personal to them.

However, today the day serves as an excuse to party for everyone in the region, even if they do not have any Latin origins. People engage in pub crawls, down tequila shots, and enjoy special discounts on Mexican foods.

The festivities also include culturally rich Mexican parades, blasting Mexican music, mariachi competitions, and folkloric ballet. But during the festivities, some Mexican stereotypes are also propagated as a means to celebrate, which actually have no connection to the celebration in Mexico.

These include costume mustaches, straw sombreros, and eating tortilla chips with orange cheddar. Companies that jump in to capitalize on the holiday, without actually respecting it, also face heavy criticism.

How should Cinco De Mayo be celebrated?

If you are looking to celebrate Cinco de Mayo this year as a means to build empathy and understanding its cultural significance or you are looking to reconnect with your Mexican roots, here are some tips for you.

  1. Learn About Mexican History:
    This will help you build an understanding of the Mexican struggle for independence and their inherent need to retain their Mexican identity. We recommend taking an online course on Mexican history like Open Learn’s free course on Art and the Mexican Revolution. This will help you learn about how art (Mexican muralism) played an integral role in the Mexican Revolution. Or if art isn’t for you, you can listen to Podcasts that discuss the history of Mexico like Mexica: A History Podcast.
    You can also watch a film or a docuseries on the topic, for which we recommend Optimum Stream, which brings you live TV (with 200+ channels) and 4k streaming of your favorite shows. You can know more about this by calling Optimum servicio al cliente en español.
  2. Learn and Make an Authentic Mexican Dish:
    This will serve as an awareness of what authentic Mexican cuisine is and you can have fun with your family making it. We recommend making a simple one like tacos, caramel flan, salsa and guacamole and enjoying the vibrancy of Mexican culture.
  3. Decorate with Mexican Decorations:
    You can use colors that represent the Mexican flag, like red, white, and green, and use decorative items that resemble Mexican fiesta. But be mindful of not using stereotypes (if you do not have Mexican roots) like wearing sombreros and ponchos.
  4. Put Traditional Mexican Music:
    You can listen to Mexican music live, at a pub for instance, or you can put Mariachi, Norteno, or Banda music at home. You can search a playlist on Spotify or tune into a Latin American radio station.
  5. Read a Book from Mexican Literature:
    If you are an avid reader, this is how you can celebrate. Cozy up in your reading nook, put light music (preferably Mexican), and read works of amazing Mexican writers like Faces in the Crowd by Valeria Luiselli, Juan Ruffalo’s Pedro Paramo, and the Death of Artemio Cruz by Carlos Fuentes.

Wrapping Up

Mexico has a vibrant history and culture and Cinco de Mayo marks a monumental moment in Mexican history. With the 5th of May approaching soon, it is a good idea to be respectful of Mexican tradition and culture. While we should always strive to learn more and develop respect and understanding for the Mexican American community this year we should strive for zero tolerance of racial discrimination.

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