Misconceptions blur the significance of Cinco de Mayo

Cinco de Mayo is celebrations are found in many US cities, including Los Angeles, New York City, Denver and Houston (Photo Illustration).

By Claire Bachand, Staff–

Cinco de Mayo is a day to celebrate Mexican independence, right? Wrong. Actually, it commemorates the Battle of Puebla in 1862, where Mexican troops defeated a bigger and stronger French army, establishing that Mexico could defend itself.

Mexican independence, on the other hand, came half a century earlier on Sept. 16 in 1810.

“They just don’t have any idea [what Cinco de Mayo celebrates] so they just assume that that is what it is,” Davis High Spanish teacher Nicholas Salcedo said.

To clarify this misconception, he gave a short presentation on May 5 explaining the history of Cinco de Mayo.

“People here in the US celebrate Cinco de Mayo as an excuse to just party without really knowing its significance,” junior Sebastian Alvarez said.

In fact, according to a 2014 Nielsen survey, more Americans drink on Cinco de Mayo than on St. Patrick’s Day or the Super Bowl.

Alvarez, whose parents immigrated to the US from Mexico, celebrates Cinco de Mayo annually by making traditional Mexican food with his family.

“We’ve always done it, but it wasn’t always a big thing,” Alvarez said. “My favorite memory was one time a couple years ago when everyone in my family, including grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins got together for a party.”

“It gives us pride and joy that our country was able to defend itself against a powerful, invasive nation at the time,” Alvarez said.

In Mexico, Cinco de Mayo is primarily celebrated with festivities such as parades and battle recreations in the state of Puebla, where the underdog victory occurred. It is not a federal holiday, so businesses typically remain open and most Mexicans attend work or school.

Surprisingly, the largest Cinco de Mayo celebration is Fiesta Broadway, which occurs annually in Los Angeles and this year was attended by about 300,000 people.

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