Cinco de Mayo: Six fun facts about the Fifth of May
Although the holiday observes a historic battle in Mexico, it is celebrated with much more fervor north of the border with fiestas, parades, and concerts. Here are five things about Cinco de Mayo, or Fifth of May, that may surprise.
1. What is Cinco de Mayo about?
Cinco de Mayo marks an outnumbered Mexican army’s victory over an invading French army on May 5, 1862, in Puebla, east of Mexico City.
Although Mexico’s triumph lifted morale during a time of political and economic upheaval, it was short-lived. Mexico later succumbed to French rule in a period known as the French Intervention that lasted until 1867.
Keeping the French from creating an empire in North America was a mutual interest that sparked cooperation between US President Abraham Lincoln and Benito Juárez, his counterpart in Mexico. Today, statues of the American president stand tall in Mexico, and statues of the Mexican president, one of the country’s most beloved leaders, grace US soil.
Cinco de Mayo merits the consumption of lots of Mexican food – and avocados rise to the top because you need them for guacamole, a popular food staple. Americans on this holiday alone are expected to consume more than 70 million pounds of avocados, according to the California Avocado Commission.
So get your avocados, mash them to a pulp and mix in onion, tomato, hot peppers and whatever else you like. Break out the corn chips and you’re set for Cinco.
3. How did it start?
Although Mexican immigrants observed Cinco de Mayo here as far back as the 1860s, some researchers have traced the first recognized festival to a group of California college students searching for a meaningful way to celebrate their Mexican heritage in the 1960s.
Thanks to commercialism, some say Cinco de Mayo since has gone the way of St. Patrick’s Day and become nothing more than an excuse to party. Community organizations in several cities are working to reclaim the holiday from commercialism
4. The bigger Mexican holiday
Cinco de Mayo is often confused with another Mexican holiday with more cachet south of the border: Dieciséis de Septiembre, which celebrates Independence Day. Mexico’s 10-year struggle to break free from Spain began Sept. 16, 1810 – half a century before the Battle of Puebla.
Conventional wisdom has it that US marketers had a clever hand in catapulting to popularity Cinco de Mayo, partly because it just rolls off the tongue even if you speak no Spanish. Now try saying Dieciséis de Septiembre.
5. The world’s largest Cinco de Mayo party
Fiesta Broadway, held in downtown Los Angeles, is considered the largest Cinco de Mayo celebration not just in the United States but also around the globe. At least that’s how organizers bill the event that draws more than a half million people to the city of angels each May.
The area is a hub for California’s 10.5 million residents of Mexican descent, but many other cities with high and low Hispanic populations also boast signature Cinco parties. In Chandler, Ariz., near Phoenix, the festival’s main attraction consists of dog races featuring 150 Chihuahuas and the coronation of a Chihuahua king and queen. Ay ay ay.
6. Show your Cinco colors
Cinco de Mayo colors mirror those of the Mexican flag – red, white and green. The meaning of the flag colors has evolved over time, with green representing hope and independence; white, unity and purity; and red, religion and the blood of the national heroes. The Mexican coat of arms, a golden eagle devouring a snake in the center of the flag, is steeped in ancient Aztec mythology.
– Lourdes Medrano, Staff writer