Cinco de Mayo’s 150th Anniversary

Cinco de Mayo—the fifth of May—commemorates the Mexican army’s 1862 victory over France at the Battle of Puebla during the Franco-Mexican War (1861-1867).  And 2012 marks the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Puebla.  Cinco de Mayo is not considered a major holiday in Mexico. However, in the United States Cinco de Mayo has evolved into a celebration of Mexican culture and heritage. Cinco de Mayo traditions include parades, parties, mariachi music, Mexican folk dancing, traditional foods, and street festivals in cities and towns across the United States.

Some mistakenly believe that Cinco de Mayo is a celebration of Mexican independence, which was declared more than 50 years before the Battle of Puebla. That event is commemorated on September 16, the anniversary of the revolutionary priest Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla’s famous “Grito de Dolores” (“Cry of Dolores”), a call to arms that amounted to a declaration of war against the Spanish colonial government in 1810.  Cinco De Mayo celebrates 150th anniversary in 2012

According to David Hayes-Bautista, a UCLA Professor, historian, and director for the Center for the Study of Latino Health and Culture, a fascinating story lies behind Cinco de Mayo.  He told the Huffington Post that as a demographer and epidemiologist, he was investigating why Hispanics, despite having less income and education and meager access to health services, are both less prone to certain diseases and live on average five years longer than non-Latino whites.

“I was investigating the level of health of Latinos during the Gold Rush and the Civil War. But there was no easy way to get that data; until 1880 there were no birth certificates, and until 1896 there were no death certificates,” he said.

The professor turned to Spanish language newspapers from the mid-19th century that served Latino communities in the U.S.  “The news of the Mexican victory over the French Army in Puebla were celebrated, not only immediately after it happened, but every year during the Civil War. That is the origin of why we celebrate the Cinco de Mayo,” said Hayes-Bautista, author of the new book The Cinco de Mayo: An American Tradition.  “Latinos here supported [President Abraham] Lincoln. They supported freedom, and democracy. The French invaded Mexico to remove democracy, and to impose over Mexico a treaty with the Confederation,” he explained.

Let us all continue to support freedom and democracy!  And let us continue to celebrate tradition.

Interesting Children’s books about Mexico and delicious Food Network Cinco de Mayo recipes.


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