Cinco de Mayo may seem like a convenient excuse to get wasted, but the holiday means so much more than that. While celebrating Mexican culture is cool, celebrating Mexico’s defeat in a historic not-so-fair battle is even better. And that folks, is what Cinco de Mayo actually is. It’s not the nation’s independence day. Read on.
1 Mexican Independence Day is September 16. On that day in 1810, Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla courageously declared that it was time to end Spanish rule and racial inequality in Mexico. Then a priest, the “father of Mexican independence” gave his passionate speech, also called “The Cry of Dolores,” in the town of Dolores, Mexico and ignited a revolt.
2 It started over money. Cinco de Mayo celebrates Mexico’s victory in 1862 against the French, who stormed the country after the nation declared itself bankrupt and unable to pay its debts—remember it only won its independence from Spain 50 years early. The Battle of Puebla is legendary because the French had better weaponry and an army that significantly outnumbered Mexico’s.
3 The Americans helped. The French finally withdrew from Mexico in 1867, in part due to influence from the United States, which offered political pressure and military support to Mexico.
4 Mexicans don’t really celebrate Cinco de Mayo. The day isn’t a national holiday but is often commemorated by citizens in Puebla—likely after work.
5 There are several reasons Cinco de Mayo is a big day stateside. First, Mexican-Americans have heralded the day as a way to celebrate victory over colonizers and champion their culture. Second, Americans will use any excuse to drink excessively but remember: Celebrate without cultural appropriation.