Cinco de Mayo
|Cinco de Mayo|
|Observed by||Mexicans, US Americans, mixed nationality|
|Significance||commemorate the cause of freedom and democracy during the first years of the American Civil War; celebration of Mexican heritage and pride; commemorate the Mexican army's victory over French forces at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862|
|Observances||Celebration in Mexico, the United States of Mexican-American culture and experiences. Food, music, folkloric dancing|
|Next time||5 May 2014|
Cinco de Mayo (Spanish for "fifth of May") is a celebration held on May 5. It is celebrated in the United States and regionally in Mexico, primarily in the state of Puebla,[note 1] where the holiday is called El Día de la Batalla de Puebla (English: The Day of the Battle of Puebla). It originated with Mexican-American communities in the American West as a way to commemorate the cause of freedom and democracy during the first years of the American Civil War, and today the date is observed in the United States as a celebration of Mexican heritage and pride. In the state of Puebla, the date is observed to commemorate the Mexican army's unlikely victory over French forces at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862, under the leadership of General Ignacio Zaragoza Seguín. Cinco de Mayo is not Mexico's Independence Day—the most important national patriotic holiday in Mexico—which is celebrated on September 16.
Events leading to the Battle of Puebla
Cinco de Mayo has its roots in the French occupation of Mexico, which took place in the aftermath of the Mexican-American War of 1846-48, the Mexican Civil War of 1858, and the 1860 Reform Wars. These wars left the Mexican Treasury nearly bankrupt. On July 17, 1861, Mexican President Benito Juárez issued a moratorium in which all foreign debt payments would be suspended for two years. In response, France, Britain, and Spain sent naval forces to Veracruz to demand reimbursement. Britain and Spain negotiated with Mexico and withdrew, but France, at the time ruled by Napoleon III, decided to use the opportunity to establish a Latin empire in Mexico that would favor French interests, the Second Mexican Empire.
Late in 1861, a well-armed French fleet stormed Veracruz, landing a large French force and driving President Juárez and his government into retreat. Moving on from Veracruz towards Mexico City, the French army encountered heavy resistance from the Mexicans near Puebla, at the Mexican forts of Loreto and Guadalupe. The 8,000-strong French army[note 2] attacked the much smaller and poorly equipped Mexican army of 4,500.[note 3] Yet, on May 5, 1862, the Mexicans managed to decisively crush the French army, then considered "the premier army in the world".
The victory represented a significant morale boost to the Mexican army and the Mexican people at large. In the description of The History Channel, "Although not a major strategic win in the overall war against the French, Zaragoza's success at Puebla represented a great symbolic victory for the Mexican government and bolstered the resistance movement." The description of Time magazine was: "The Puebla victory came to symbolize unity and pride for what seemed like a Mexican David defeating a French Goliath." It helped establish a much-needed sense of national unity and patriotism.
Events after the battle
The Mexican victory, however, was short-lived. Thirty thousand troops and a full year later, the French were able to defeat the Mexican army, capture Mexico City, and instate Emperor Maximilian I as ruler of Mexico. However, the French victory was also short-lived, lasting only three years, from 1864 to 1867. By 1865, "with the American Civil War now over, the U.S. began to provide more political and military assistance to Mexico to expel the French". Upon the conclusion of the U.S. Civil War, Napoleon III, facing a persistently tenacious Mexican guerilla resistance, the threat of war with Prussia, and "the prospect of a serious scrap with the United States", retreated from Mexico starting in 1866. The Mexicans recaptured Mexico City, and Maximilian I was apprehended and executed, along with his Mexican generals Miramón and Mejía, in the Cerro de las Campanas, Querétaro. "On June 5, 1867, Benito Juarez finally entered Mexico City where he installed a legitimate government and reorganized his administration."
The Battle of Puebla was important for at least two reasons. First, although considerably outnumbered, the Mexicans defeated a much better-equipped French army. "This battle was significant in that the 4,000 Mexican soldiers were greatly outnumbered by the well-equipped French army of 8,000 that had not been defeated for almost 50 years."  [note 4] Second, since the Battle of Puebla, no country in the Americas has subsequently been invaded by any other European military force.[note 5]
Consequences to the United States
Some historians have argued that France's real goal was to help break up the American Union, at the time in the midst of a civil war, by helping the southern Confederacy: "The Mexicans had won a great victory that kept Napoleon III from supplying the confederate rebels for another year, allowing the United States to build a powerful army. This grand army smashed the Confederates at Vicksburg and Gettysburg just 14 months after the battle of Puebla, essentially ending the Civil War." The consequence of Cinco de Mayo to the United States has been thus recognized: "The defeat of the French army had consequences for America as well...the French defeat denied Napoleon III the opportunity to resupply the Confederate rebels for another year."
Donald W. Miles adds, "At the time, there were fears in the United States that the French would use Mexico as a base to back the Confederacy, so President Lincoln and his Secretary of State went out of their way to appear 'neutral' in the Mexican situation. They did not want to take on the French and the Confederates at the same time". Dr. Miles goes on to explain that "Napoleon III had hesitated to take on the United States directly, but now the news of the Civil War changed everything". It meant that the Americans would be occupied with their conflict between North and South for some time. Upon hearing the Spaniards and the British had sailed off to grab the customs house in Veracruz to start collecting their duties, Napoleon decided he would not only send the French navy, but would also start looking for someone to place as emperor in Mexico. He would then use Mexico as a base to help the Confederates win their war against the United States. Napoleon saw this as an opportunity not to be missed.
Historian Justo Sierra has written in his Political Evolution of the Mexican People, that had Mexico not defeated the French in Puebla on May 5, 1862, France would have gone to the aid of the South in the U.S. Civil War and the United States' destiny could have been very different.
Ignacio Gonzalez wrote, "Some scholars, including José Antonio Burciaga, believe that had the French defeated México at Puebla, France would have aided the South in the American Civil War in order to free Southern ports of the Union Blockade. During this time, Confederate General Robert E. Lee was enjoying success, and French intervention could have had an impact on the Civil War."
History of the holiday
The American Cinco de Mayo celebration originated in the Mexican-American communities of the American West, Southwest, and Northwest in the 1860s. Mexicans and Latinos living in California during the American Civil War are credited with being the first to celebrate Cinco de Mayo in the United States. It grew in popularity and evolved into a celebration of Mexican culture and heritage, first in areas with large Mexican-American populations, like Los Angeles, Chicago, and Houston. Eventually it expanded across the United States. On June 7, 2005, the U.S. Congress issued a Concurrent Resolution calling on the President of the United States to issue a proclamation calling upon the people of the United States to observe Cinco de Mayo with appropriate ceremonies and activities.
According to a paper published by the UCLA Center for the Study of Latino Health and Culture about the origin of the observance of Cinco de Mayo in the United States, the modern American focus on that day first started in California in the 1860s in response to the resistance to French rule in Mexico. "Far up in the gold country town of Columbia (now Columbia State Park) Mexican miners were so overjoyed at the news that they spontaneously fired off rifles shots and fireworks, sang patriotic songs and made impromptu speeches." A 2007 UCLA Newsroom article notes that "The holiday, which has been celebrated in California continuously since 1863, is virtually ignored in Mexico." TIME magazine reports that "Cinco de Mayo started to come into vogue in 1940s America during the rise of the Chicano movement." The holiday crossed over from California into the rest of the United States in the 1950s and 1960s but didn't gain popularity until the 1980s when marketers, especially beer companies, capitalized on the celebratory nature of the day and began to promote it.
In a 1998 study in the Journal of American Culture it was reported that there were more than 120 official U.S. celebrations of Cinco de Mayo, and they could be found in 21 different states. An update in 2006, found that the number of official Cinco de Mayo events was 150 or more, according to José Alamillo, professor of ethnic studies at Washington State University in Pullman, who has studied the cultural impact of Cinco de Mayo north of the border.
In the United States Cinco de Mayo has taken on a significance beyond that in Mexico. Celebrations tend to draw both from traditional Mexican symbols, such as the Virgen de Guadalupe, and from prominent figures of Mexican descent in the United States, including César Chávez. To celebrate, many display Cinco de Mayo banners while school districts hold special events to educate pupils about its historical significance. Special events and celebrations highlight Mexican culture, especially in its music and regional dancing. Examples include baile folklórico and mariachi demonstrations held annually at the Plaza del Pueblo de Los Angeles, near Olvera Street. Commercial interests in the United States have capitalized on the celebration, advertising Mexican products and services, with an emphasis on beverages, foods, and music.
"Public memory of the Cinco de Mayo was socially, and deliberately, constructed during the American Civil War by Latinos responding to events and changes around them," says historian David E. Hayes-Bautista. "The Cinco de Mayo is not, in its origins, a Mexican holiday at all but rather an American one, created by Latinos in California in the middle of the 19th century." The key events were taking place in Mexico in response to a French invasion.
Although Mexican citizens feel very proud of the meaning of Cinco de Mayo, it is not a national holiday in Mexico but it is an official holiday in the State of Puebla, where the Battle took place. However, all public schools are closed nation-wide in Mexico on May 5. It is also a full holiday (no work) in the neighboring state of Veracruz.
Events tied to Cinco de Mayo also occur outside Mexico and the United States. As in the United States, celebrations elsewhere also emphasize Mexican cuisine, culture and music. For example, Windsor, Canada, holds an American-style "Cinco de Mayo Street Festival", some Canadian pubs play Mexican music and serve Mexican food and drink, and a sky-diving club near Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, holds a Cinco de Mayo skydiving event, In the Cayman Islands, in the Caribbean, there is an annual Cinco de Mayo air guitar competition. and at Montego Bay, Jamaica, there is a Cinco de Mayo celebration. The city of Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, holds an annual Mexican Festival to honor the day, and celebrations are held in London and New Zealand. American-style celebrations of the day can also be found in Paris. Cinco de Mayo is celebrated in Tokyo, Japan in Yoyogi Park Event Space as a celebration of all the Americas and not just Mexican culture.
- List of Public and Bank Holidays in Mexico. 14 April 2008. This list indicates that Cinco de Mayo is not a día feriado obligatorio ("obligatory holiday"), but is instead a holiday that can be voluntarily observed.
- Other sources give a the size of the French force as 6,500. Read Here
- According to Mexico's National Institute of Historical Studies on the Mexican Revolution the Mexican force consisted of 4,802 soldiers.Read Here And Peter Hicks of the French Fondation Napoléon and other French sources state the size of the Mexican force was 12,000 men. Read here and Read here. Hayes-Batista clarifies on page 60 of his El Cinco de Mayo: An American Tradition that after the smaller Mexican force had defeated the French on May 5, they received reinforcements on May 6 and 7 to the tune of 12,000 additional Mexican soldiers.
- It has been pointed out that, contrary to reports on PBS and in Philadelphia's The Bulletin, the French were in fact considered to have been defeated by the Russians at the Siege of Petropavlovsk in 1854.
- The statement in The Bulletin is, "This was the last time any army from another continent invaded the Americas." Note it says "invaded", and not "attacked." Thus, since Cinco de Mayo no army from another continent has invaded the Americas. The War of the Falklands War, for example, was fought in the Americas but the Islands were invaded by a military from the Americas (the Argentine military). They were subsequently attacked (not invaded) by the UK. Another example, Pearl Harbor, experienced an attack, not an invasion by the Japanese. The only possible exception to the Cinco de Mayo claim above might be the brief occupation/invasion of two of the Alaskan Aleutian Islands by the Japanese military during WWII. This event, however, was so insignificant as to be virtually negligible: the islands invaded had a total population of 12 Americans and some 45 natives, the invasion was short-lived, and the battle fought there had no notoriety other than the psychological effect on the Americans that the Japanese had invaded American territory again (Alaska was not yet a full-fledged state). In short, the military importance of these small, frozen pieces of land was nowhere comparable to the superior military significance of the Battle of Puebla.
- David E. Hayes-Bautista. El Cinco de Mayo: an American tradition. Page 11. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. (c)2012 by The Regents of the University of California. ISBN 978-0-520-27213-2. 293 pages.
- "Cinco de Mayo". Mexico Online: The Oldest and most trusted online guide to Mexico.
- Lovgren, Stefan (5 May 2006). "Cinco de Mayo, From Mexican Fiesta to Popular U.S. Holiday". National Geographic News.
- Cinco de Mayo is not a federal holiday in México Retrieved 5 May 2009
- Día de la Batalla de Puebla. 5 May 2011. "Dia de la Batalla de Puebla: 5 de Mayo de 1862." Colegio Rex: Marina, Mazatlan. Retrieved 25 May 2011.
- Día de la Batalla de Puebla (5 de Mayo). Guia de San Miguel. Retrieved 25 May 2011.
- Happy “Battle of Puebla” Day. Retrieved 25 May 2011.
- Hayes-Bautista, David E. "Cinco de Mayo: The Real Story, Part 1: While viewed as a Mexican holiday, the date has more meaning in the US". Eastern Group Publications. Retrieved April 14, 2011.
- "Cinco de Mayo a Mexican import? No, it's as American as July 4, prof says". CNN. Retrieved May 5, 2012.
- "Cinco de Mayo celebrations run all weekend". Retrieved May 8, 2007.
- Library of Congress (U.S.A.) Declaration Retrieved February 6, 2009.
- Lauren Effron (5 May 2010). "Cinco de Mayo: NOT Mexico's Independence Day". Discovery Channel. Retrieved 5 May 2011.
- "Cinco de Mayo". University of California at Los Angeles. Retrieved 5 May 2011.
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- Cinco de Mayo: What's all the fuss about?. Julia Goralka. The Washington Times. 2 May 2012. Retrieved 15 November 2012.
- Happy Cinco de Mayo -- Sorta. Ray Suarez. PBS News Hour. 4 May 2012. Retrieved 28 October 2012.
- David E. Hayes-Batista. El Cinco de Mayo: An American Tradition. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. 2012. p. 59.
- Cinco de Mayo. Mexico Online: The Oldest and most trusted online guide to Mexico. Retrieved 13 November 2012.
- Cinco de Mayo. 2011. The History Channel website. Retrieved 5 May 2011.
- The Significance of "Cinco de Mayo". Ignacio González. 1996. Retrieved 15 November 2012.
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- Philadelphia News Article reporting Mexican were outnumbered 2-to-1 The Bulletin: Philadelphia's Family Newspaper, "Cinco De Mayo: Join In The Celebration On The Fifth Of May", May 7, 2009. By Cheryl VanBuskirk. Retrieved May 10, 2010.
- History Channel.com Retrieved May 14, 2010.
- Happy Cinco de Mayo: Top 10 Drunkest Holidays.. Time. By Frances Romero. Wednesday, May. 05, 2010. Retrieved May 14, 2010.
- Michael C. Meyer; William H. Beezley (2000). The Oxford History of Mexico. Oxford University Press. pp. 387–8.
- Cinco De Mayo: Join In The Celebration On The Fifth Of May. Cheryl VanBuskirk. The Bulletin: Philadelphia's Family Newspaper. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA. May 7, 2009. Retrieved June 5, 2009.
- The Battle of Puebla and Cinco de Mayo. PBS. Retrieved February 6, 2009.
- Cinco De Mayo: Join In The Celebration On The Fifth Of May. Cheryl VanBuskirk. The Bulletin: Philadelphia's Family Newspaper, May 7, 2009. Retrieved June 5, 2009.
- "Viva Cinco de Mayo". Viva Cinco de Mayo. Retrieved 5 May 2011.
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- Miles 2006, p. xv.
- Miles 2006, p. 8.
- "''Mexico's Lasting European Influence.'' By Jose Antonio Burciaga. Free Lance-Star Publishing. May, 2007. (First released in The Hispanic News Link. 1981.)". Banderasnews.com. Retrieved 5 May 2011.
- The Political Evolution of the Mexican People. By Justo Sierra. Translated by Charles Ramsdell. Austin, TX: The University of Texas Press. 1969. (As presented by JSTOR: Truted Archive for Scholarship. Review: by Robert L. Bidwell. © 1971. Center for Latin American Studies at the University of Miami.)
- Cinco de Mayo a Mexican import? No, it's as American as July 4, prof says. Michael Martinez (CNN). 5 May 2012. Retrieved 10 March 2013.
- "Cinco de Mayo" — plenty of beer, little history. Russell Contreras (Associated Press). Daily Comet. Lafourche Parish, Louisiana. 2 May 2012. Retrieved 10 March 2013.
- Why Is Cinco de Mayo More Popular in America Than in Mexico?. Brian Greene. U.S. News & World Report. 4 May 2012. Retrieved 10 March 2013.
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- Cinco de Mayo. Retrieved 10 March 2013.
- Southern California Quarterly "Cinco de Mayo's First Seventy-Five Years in Alta California: From Spontaneous Behavior to Sedimented Memory, 1862 to 1937" Spring 2007 (see American observation of Cinco de Mayo started in California) Retrieved 30 October 2007.
- Cinco de Mayo minor holiday in Mexico. UPI. World News. 5 May 2010. Retrieved 15 May 2010. Verified 20 March 2013.
- Holiday of Cinco de Mayo is minor event in Mexico. Oscar Cesares. Houston Chronicle. 5 May 2010. Retrieved 15 May 2010. Verified 20 March 2013.
- Stefan Lovgren in Los Angeles. "''Cinco de Mayo History: From Bloodshed to Beer Fest.'' National Geographic". News.nationalgeographic.com. Retrieved 5 May 2011.
- "Cinco de Mayo has become a day for celebrating Mexican culture in the United States, and celebrations there easily outshine those in Mexico." Retrieved 8May 2007
- "Today, the holiday is celebrated more in the United States than in Mexico" Retrieved 30 October 2007 Archived November 18, 2007 at the Wayback Machine
- "Cinco de Mayo an excuse to party in U.S.". Ahorre.com. Retrieved May 8, 2007.
- "[Cinco de Mayo] gives us an opportunity ... to really get a jump-start on the summer beer-selling season" New York Times Business section; May 2, 2003. Retrieved 30 October 2007
- Constellation Brands and Crown Imports Ring in Cinco de Mayo at New York Stock Exchange Retrieved 8 May 2012.
- "From my perspective as a marketing professional, Cinco de Mayo has morphed into a national holiday designed by Fifth Avenue to sell alcohol and excite consumership around a party-type theme." Retrieved 5 May 2007.
- "Cinco de Mayo is not just a fiesta anymore, the gringos have taken it on as a good sales pitch."Smithsonian Institution paper Retrieved 8 May 2007.
- David E. Hayes-Bautista, "El Cinco de Mayo: An American Tradition (2011) p 5
- Did You Know? Cinco de Mayo is more widely celebrated in USA than Mexico. Tony Burton. Mexconnect. Retrieved 8 May 2013.
- Cultural adaptation: the Cinco de Mayo holiday is far more widely celebrated in the USA than in Mexico. Geo-Mexico. 2 May 2011. Retrieved 8 May 2013.
- 25 Latino Craft Projects: Celebrating Culture in Your Library. Ana Elba Pabon. Diana Borrego. 2003. American Library Association. Page 14. Retrieved 8 May 2013.
- 7 Things You May Not Know About Cinco de Mayo. Jesse Greenspan. 3 May 2012. Retrieved 8 May 2013.
- Congressional Record - House. Page 7488. 9 May 2001. Retrieved 8 May 2013. Note that contrary to most other souces, this source states the date Juarez declared Cinco de Mayo to be a national holiday was 8 September 1862.
- Holidays 2013. U.S. Consulate in Mexico. Retrieved 16 April 2013.
- Calendario Puebla 2012. Retrieved 16 April 2013.
- Los días de 2013 que, por ley, debes descansar. 9 January 2013. Retrieved 16 April 2013.
- Calendario Escolar 2012-2013. Secretaria de Educacion Publica. Government of Mexico. Retrieved 16 April 2013.
- Circular 0077-13 Calendario Oficial de Días Festivos 2013. Adelante. Gobierno del Estado de Veracruz. 16 January 2013. Retrieved 16 April 2013.
- Windsor festival Retrieved 8 May 2012.
- Canadian celebration;Canadian celebration; Montreal celebration Retrieved 8 May 2012.
- "Cinco de Mayo Skydiving Boogie" Retrieved 5 May 2008.
- Cayman Cinco de Mayo air guitar Retrieved 5 May 2008.
- Jamaica celebration Retrieved 8 May 2012.
- "Brisbane Cinco de Mayo Mexican Festival"; Brisbane celebration
- "Where to Celebrate Cinco de Mayo in London" Retrieved 8 May 2012.
- Mexican Ambassador to New Zealand honors Cinco de Mayo Retrieved 8 May 2012.
- El cinco de mayo - Paris - jeudi 05 mai. After Work. Retrieved 8 May 2012.
- 【5/3 & 5/4】 Cinco De Mayo Festival in Tokyo. JapanBases.com Retrieved 16 August 2013.
- Cinco de Mayo 2013: Celebrating teh Americas. Cinco de Mayo Festival. Retrieved 16 August 2013.
- Hayes-Bautista, David E. El Cinco de Mayo: An American Tradition (University of California Press; 2012) 293 pages
- Miles, Donald W. (2006). Cinco de Mayo: what is everybody celebrating? The Story Behind Mexico's Battle of Puebla. New York: iUniverse Press.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Cinco de Mayo.|
- Cinco De Mayo Videos on The History Channel
- Cinco de Mayo Fun: Mariachi! - slideshow by Life magazine
- "Cinco de Mayo is NOT Mexican Independence Day?" on The Law Library of Congress's blog