For many people, Cinco de Mayo (or 5th of May) has many certainties - it is a day of fiestas, tacos, margaritas, piñatas and Mariachi bands. However, what is often not-so-certain is the meaning behind this celebration. Today we aim to set the misconceptions straight!
Cinco de Mayo is Mexico's independence day.
This is a common mistake. Mexico's independence happened on 16th September 1810. In contrary, Cinco de Mayo commemorates an event which happened fifty years later on 5th May 1862.
At the time, Mexico was suffering from severe economic turmoil. The new president - Benito Juárez - defaulted on debt payments to Europe. In response, France ruled by Napoleon III, invaded Mexico. 6,000 French troops were sent to attack Puebla de Los Angeles, a small town in east-central Mexico, in what became the Battle of Puebla. Against all odds, the vastly outnumbered and poorly supplied Mexicans emerged triumphant.
Therefore to this day, Cinco de Mayo, celebrates Mexico's spectacular battle victory over one of the most powerful armies in the world.
It is a day of eating tacos and drinking margaritas.
Put down the margarita and pick up a chalupa. An iconic Poblano street food, chalupas are fried thick tortillas topped with salsa, shredded meat, chopped onion and sometimes queso fresco.
Other dishes eaten during this celebration include mole poblano a dark red-brown sauce usually served with turkey or chicken. Of the several ingredients found in the dish, the main ones are chilli peppers, chocolate, plantains, almonds, pumpkin seeds, cinnamon sticks, anise, and cloves.
Cinco de Mayo is a major holiday in Mexico and Latin America.
The country which parties the hardest during 5th May is the USA - even more than Mexico itself. In Mexico, it is no longer a national holiday. For that reason, banks, stores and shops remain open and it is business as usual.
For Latinos (aside from Mexicans), Cinco de Mayo has no patriotic meaning. It would be like wishing Happy 4th July to an Australian.
We hope you have a greater understanding of this fun celebration!
To learn more about Latin American culture, try a free Spanish language lesson with our teachers from Guatemala!
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