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Happy Cinco de Mayo

Posted by Elizabeth Sullivan on

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

It's May, which means it's time for one of the United States' most misunderstood holidays: Cinco de Mayo. But at least there will be great food and drink to make the misunderstanding more tolerable.

The name in Spanish means "May 5."

Cinco de Mayo is an annual celebration held on May 5. The date is observed to commemorate the Mexican Army's victory over the French Empire at the Battle of Puebla, on May 5, 1862, under the leadership of General Ignacio Zaragoza. Also, it is important to clarify it's not Mexico's Independence Day, which is actually celebrated Sept. 16.

Oddly — or not, considering Americans' fondness for claiming other countries' holidays as a reason to drink and party — Cinco de Mayo is celebrated much more in the United States than it is in Mexico. In Mexico, it's not even a federal holiday, and most of the celebratory parades and events are limited to the state of Puebla.

In the United States, Cinco de Mayo is usually marked with parades and celebrations of Mexican culture, culminating with the consumption of lots of Mexican food and margaritas.

In the 1960s, the holiday was adopted in cities with large Hispanic populations, starting with the west coast and moving inward over the years, as a celebration of Mexican culture.

Activists also commemorated it as a metaphor for all indigenous people triumphing over arriving colonists.

The holiday was then pushed into the holiday big leagues in the '80s once the marketing departments of Anheiser-Busch and Miller Brewing got behind it.