Turns out in Mexico, though, the holiday isn’t nearly as big a cause for celebration.
In the US, Cinco de Mayo festivities can be found in a multitude of cities with large Mexican-American populations, such as Denver, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Phoenix, and Chicago.
The celebrations in Mexico are not nearly as widespread.
Before you toss back your margarita, make sure you’re not guilty of any of the common misconceptions many Americans have about Cinco de Mayo.
Cinco de Mayo is not a celebration of Mexican independence.
According to History.com, the Mexicans celebrate their independence from Spain on September 16th. This is the day priest Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla declared war against the Spanish government in 1810 with his call to arms that is known as the “Grito de Dolores” or “Cry of Dolores.”
Cinco de Mayo commemorates a relatively small battle.
The 5th of May is the anniversary of the Battle of Puebla, a battle which resulted in the unlikely victory of Mexico over France in 1862, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica.
In 1861, Mexico defaulted on a number of foreign debts that it owed to England, Spain, and France. All three countries invaded Mexico, but England and Spain retreated by the next year. France however, stayed in hopes of creating a monarchy in Mexico led by the Archduke of Austria, Maximilian.
When General Charles Latrille de Lorencez’s 6,000 troops of French soliders met General Ignacio Zaragoza’s far fewer — and poorly trained — Mexican troops, Zaragoza’s forces ended up triumphing. Close to 500 French soldiers were killed in the battle fought at Puebla, while the Mexicans hadn’t even lost 100 men.
Cinco de Mayo celebrates this victory. Although it was small, it lent support to Mexico’s resistance against the French (they withdrew from Mexico six years later).
Not all of Mexico celebrates the holiday.
Because Cinco de Mayo commemorates the Battle of Puebla, the holiday is mainly celebrated in Puebla, and only in a few other places in the country. Peñón de los Baños in Mexico City for example, holds reenactments of the battle, but the people who participate in the celebrations originally come from Puebla. Cinco de Mayo festivities in Mexico also include military parades.
Cinco de Mayo is not a federal holiday in Mexico.
Although you wouldn’t know it from America’s celebration of the holiday, many Mexicans don’t spend the 5th of May drinking and partying. Since it’s not actually a declared national holiday, stores, offices, and banks are all open, and many people go about their days as usual.
The most traditional Cinco de Mayo dish is not tacos.
When Americans think of Mexican food, often the first dish that comes to mind is tacos. But in reality, the food that’s more common in Mexican celebrations of Cinco de Mayo is mole poblano. It’s a thick sauce made with green chiles — among many other ingredients — that is often served over turkey or chicken.
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