Cinco de Mayo

Why do Americans celebrate and Mexicans barely notice?

by Borgna Brunner
Latin Sun

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Looking for a reason to celebrate? Break out a bag of tortilla chips—it's time for Cinco de Mayo (Fifth of May). Although it is often referred to as Mexico's Independence Day, Cinco de Mayo actually marks the 1862 battle in Puebla when a small, outnumbered Mexican army defeated the French, a turning point in Mexico's struggle for independence.

Not to put a damper on the festivities, but Cinco de Mayo is a holiday that is in fact more beloved by Americans than Mexicans. "I couldn't get over how it was a big holiday on one side of the border, the American side," commented a mystified Mexican student studying in El Paso.

One American traveler, after spending a lackluster Cinco de Mayo in central Mexico, learned from a shopkeeper that it was just "a gringo holiday."

Why is the holiday a subdued event in its country of origin, while Americans are donning sombreros? One theory is that Cinco de Mayo, first brought to the U.S. by Mexican immigrants during the 1920s, grew in importance when the 1960s Chicano movement adopted the holiday as an avenue for generating ethnic pride.

Its political purpose gradually diminished, thereby opening the holiday up to a wider Mexican-American population, and finally to mainstream America via advertising.

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