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The True Story of Cinco de Mayo
May 02/12

The True Story of Cinco de Mayo Posted by: Aaron Stearns | 0 Comments

 First of all, let’s get one thing straight. Cinco de Mayo is not Mexican Independence Day and the holiday is actually celebrated more outside of Mexico. It is a huge deal in the United States, mainly because it’s a reason to get together and party; but this year, impress your friends, er, your amigos, with your Cinco de Mayo knowledge by relaying to them this fabuloso tale.

To understand Cinco de Mayo, you have to understand what you are actually celebrating. Way back when, in 1862, the very young country of Mexico was enjoying its newfound freedom from the Spanish, but it was deeply in debt to the French. Mexico couldn’t pay its bills so the French decided to invade. The French ruler, Napoleon III, thought Mexico could be useful when dealing with the United States and keeping its rising power under control.

So off to Mexico goes the French military. France was a very powerful country with one of the largest armies of the day. The French, being very proud of their military strength, didn’t really expect to encounter any resistance from the poor Mexican army. Oh, how wrong they were! On May 5, 1862, the French landed in Puebla, Mexico, where a small band of Mexicans were actually able to defeat them.

Now, don’t go gettin’ all happy for Mexico. A short time after this battle, the French decided to send more troops to help the invasion and, basically, they conquered all. For the next few years, Mexico was under French rule, but the people always remembered el Cinco de Mayo. You have to truly respect a people who can celebrate winning one battle even though they lost the war. That’s optimism!

Over the years, Cinco de Mayo evolved into a celebration of triumph when faced with great obstacles and essentially, a celebration of the underdog. So how did Cinco de Mayo become so popular in the United States? I’m glad you asked. Sure, I could tell you it is because Mexicans wanted to share their culture with their American friends, but I’d be lying and my momma taught me better. If you really want to know why we’re so obsessed with Mexico on May 5th, just look to your favorite cerveza… or margarita… or tequila brand. Yup, that’s right, Mexican beer and liquor companies know that we like to drink and what better way to boost sales than with a party. Being smart businessmen and great marketers, they launched a campaign to celebrate Cinco de Mayo with your favorite cerveza. And guess what? It worked!

The holiday was celebrated in the U.S. as early as the first part of the 20th century but never really became popular until the 1980s. This is when the mass marketing of the fabulous alcoholic beverages coming out of Mexico began. Now, Cinco de Mayo is celebrated all around this country and the world. Partygoers come from far and away to drink their favorite Mexican beer and enjoy some good food with family and friends.

As May 5th rolls around again, it’s a time for Mexicans and people everywhere to celebrate Mexican culture and winning one little battle so long ago. How should you celebrate Cinco de Mayo? Have a fiesta, naturally! Invite some friends over to enjoy good company, eat great food, listen to Mexican music, and, of course, drink up, amigo!


Sherrie and Horacio Treviño are married, living in Little Rock with their 1-year-old son, Max, and two crazy dogs, Flash and Monkey. Horacio only recently moved to the United States from Guadalajara, Mexico, but is enjoying Arkansas. Sherrie teaches Spanish at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, and Max is happily learning to speak both Spanish and English.


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