Americans might love Cinco de Mayo, but few know what they're celebrating - Deepstash

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Americans might love Cinco de Mayo, but few know what they're celebrating

https://theconversation.com/americans-might-love-cinco-de-mayo-but-few-know-what-theyre-celebrating-115780

theconversation.com

Americans might love Cinco de Mayo, but few know what they're celebrating
The holiday honors a 19th-century battle between the French and the Mexican armies that, strangely enough, may have influenced the outcome of the US Civil War.

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Cinco de Mayo

Cinco de Mayo

Cinco de Mayo doesn’t mark Mexican Independence, as many believe.

Instead, it’s meant to celebrate the Battle of Puebla, which was fought between the Mexican and French armies in 1862.

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Beating back an empire

  • After Mexico won independence from Spain in 1821, other nations did not want to recognize its autonomy.
  • After a civil war in the late 1850s, Benito Juárez became Mexico's first indigenous president in 1861.
  • Juárez canceled repayments on foreign loans to protect Mexico's struggling economy.
  • It angered Britain, Spain, and France, and they jointly sent a force to Mexico but withdrew when it became evident that Napoleon III had plans to overthrow the new Mexican government.
  • On May 5, 1862, the Battle of Puebla took place. Although the Mexican Army was outnumbered two to one, they repelled attacks by the French army on the city of Puebla.
  • Four days later, on May 9, 1862, Juárez declared Cinco de Mayo a national holiday.
  • Even though the French eventually defeated the Mexican Army, the battle of Puebla proved that Mexico was a formidable opponent worthy of international respect.

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An inadvertent impact

By defeating the French at the Battle of Puebla, Mexicans stopped the French army from moving northward toward the U.S. border, where they would likely have helped the Confederacy.

Mexico's victory likely changed the course of American history. The state of California viewed the victory as a defense of freedom.

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Commercialization of Cinco de Mayo

During the 1980s and 1990s, beer companies targeted Mexican Americans, encouraging them to celebrate their heritage with Bud Lights and Dos Equis.

Commodification soon followed, and today's revelers purchase piñatas, Mexican flag items, sombreros, and costumes.

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Remembering the past

The legacy of Cinco de Mayo reminds us that the past is made meaningful in different ways by different people.

  • Mexicans that live outside of Puebla find other national and religious holidays more important.
  • The modern Puebla still reenact the Battle of Puebla.
  • Mexican Americans use the day to celebrate their shared heritage.
  • Americans without Mexican ancestry use the holiday as an excuse to drink margaritas.

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... after which France surrendered, losing about 500 troops, became a day of Mexican pride.

Out of the 2000 soldiers who fought in the city of Puebla, Mexico lost about 100.

An All American holiday

Even though the Cinco de Mayo holiday has its origins in Mexican heritage and culture, the celebrations are mostly in America, and in the city of Puebla, where the battle was fought. In the 1960s, the food and drink establishments marketed the day as a day to celebrate, and by the 80s, turned it into a major holiday, bigger even than Super Bowl Sunday or St. Patrick's Day.

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The 20th Century: The Parade of Sponsors

  • In the middle of the 20th century, Thanksgiving parades drew crowds in most major cities and in some of the smaller towns too. Many were sponsored by local or national retailers. Back in the day, that meant mostly department stores.
  • By attaching their names to the most visible events on the preholiday calendar, department stores reminded their customers that they were open for business in the coming holiday shopping season.
  • Over time, Thanksgiving parades came to mark the unofficial start of that season.

The Modern Holiday Shopping Calendar

  • Thanksgiving fell on the last Thursday of November since 1863 until 1939, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt moved Thanksgiving to the fourth Thursday of November (starting with 1941), influenced by the request of a powerful coalition of retailers.
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  • They promoted the idea that a longer holiday shopping season would be good for the American economy.