Cinco de Mayo is Not Mexican Independence Day

Don’t be the person in the bar on Cinco de Mayo that thinks the booze-filled holiday celebrates México’s independence from Spain, because it doesn’t.

Cinco de Mayo commemorates the victory of the Mexican army over the French forces in the Battle of Puebla that occurred on May 5, 1862. Under the leadership of General Ignacio Zaragoza, México was able to resist foreign intervention 50 years after gaining its independence.  

The triumph is celebrated in parts of México, but it’s a bigger deal in the United States. In this country, Cinco de Mayo, often known as “Cinco de Drinko”, has become synonymous with Americans consuming large amounts of alcohol and dressing up in costumes.

Often insensitive “Mexican” themed parties make headlines around this holiday because they racially stereotype Mexicans. The latest  controversy happened in Baylor University, a Christian school, that made news because one of their fraternities hosted a “Cinco de Drinko” party where members  dressed in ponchos, sombreros, construction outfits and maid’s uniforms.

When it comes to drinking on Cinco de Mayo, Americans are likely to celebrate with margaritas. This salty and sour tequila infused Mexican cocktail beverage makes up 14% of American cocktail spending. That’s $2.9 billion spent on margaritas every year, according to Bloomberg.

In America, this commercialized holiday is just another excuse to drink so it doesn’t really exemplify the true meaning of this historic battle.

On the other hand, in Puebla, México people celebrate Cinco de Mayo with a large parade reenacting the Mexican victory over the French troops. Vendors sell traditional Mexican foods, as well as patriotic clothing and accessories for people to wear during the celebration.

José Medina, a local resident from Los Angeles, Calif who was born in Puebla, México thinks the Cinco de Mayo celebrations in his home state are like no other.

“Every year in Puebla we have a Cinco de Mayo festival that is filled with a massive parade to celebrate the triumph of the Mexican army over the French,” Medina said. “We take great pride in this because our odds weren’t in our favor we had everything to lose but we came out victorious.”

The Mexican army took on the powerful French forces even though it was outnumbered and ill-equipped. In the end, the Mexican army came out triumphant, resulting in a significant morale boost while also helping slow the French army’s advance towards the capital of México.

Cinco de Mayo is more than just an excuse to party, people need to realize this battle represented a struggle against imperialism.  With this said, Cinco de Mayo is not Mexican Independence Day people.