Often confused with the commemoration of the Mexican Independence Day (which was marked on September 16, 1810), Cinco de Mayo, literally meaning ‘The Fifth of May” is an annually celebrated holiday that remembers a single battle that occurred during the five-year-long Franco-Mexican War; ending in 1867. The battle, known as the Battle of Puebla of 1862, recognizes the small group of Mexicans who held off, and then defeated, the larger and better equipped French Army.
Today, Cinco de Mayo has come to be more of an American day of celebration of Hispanic culture, rather than something the battle itself. In Mexico, itself, it is a relative minor holiday, and is known as El Día de la Batalla de Puebla. The celebrations grew popular in the 1960s when Chicano activists raised awareness of it because they felt that they identified with the Mexicans over the European invaders in the Battle of Puebla.
Sometimes referred to as the “Mexican St.Patrick’s day, the day’s traditions often include parades, street festivals and food, as well as music performances throughout the USA, and the Puebla region of Mexico. The largest festivals, naturally, can be found in the areas with the largest Mexican populations – Los Angeles, Sacramento, Phoenix, Albuquerque, Denver and El Paso in the US’ south-west regions.
Some fun facts:
The first celebration was held on the battle’s first anniversary in Southern California, in 1863.
- Since 1990, Fiesta Broadway – which is the world’s largest Cinco de Mayo celebration – is held in downtown L.A., blocks off major streets for the festivities.
- Every year, during Cinco de Mayo, roughly 87 million pounds of avocados are consumed, according to the California Avocado Commission.
- Annually, Chandler, Arizona hosts Chihuahua races; with prizes being awarded to the fastest Chihuahua, as well as, the crowning of a King and Queen Chihuahua.
Other important historical events that occurred on the 5th of May:
Carnegie Hall opened in 1891.
- John Thomas Scopes was arrested for teaching evolution in a Tennessee school in 1925, which led to the Scopes Monkey Trials.
- In 1961, NASA launched the first American-manned space flight piloted by Alan Shepard Jr.