Why “5 de Mayo” Is Huge in the U.S

Get your piñatas, sombreros, and that mariachi going and prepare to devour the best tacos you’ve ever tasted! “5 de Mayo” is about to happen and, like every year, the Hispanic community is ready to celebrate.

However, don’t get so excited if you’re actually in Mexico, because there 5 de mayo is not such a big deal. Of course, as history tells us, the date commemorates the Battle of Puebla, that took place back in 1862, in a small and very picturesque town called Puebla de Zaragoza. This incident is particularly important because it was the first time that the Mexican army defeated a foreign military unit –in this case the French- that supposedly was better prepared.

Oddly enough, the actual incident has little to do with why “5 de Mayo” became the big day in the United States to celebrate Latino culture, and be proud of “La raza”, which means “the race”. Some explanations for this can be complex, but apparently the reason may be quite simple: “5 de Mayo” is very easy to pronounce in English, just say out loud “Sincou de mayo!” and you’ll be ready to have fun.

In other words, while “5 de Mayo” reminds Mexicans of their success against the French in the battlefield, in the U.S it doesn’t preserve any belligerent significance at all. Experts in Hispanic heritage have explained many times that it has more to do with a date that coincides with the American Civil War and its struggle with democracy and freedom.

For Mexicans the most important holidays actually take place on September 16 –Independence Day- and November 20, when the start of the Mexican Revolution is remembered. This means that throughout the country, every year, between September and November the famous “Fiestas Patrias” –or “Patriotic Parties”- take place in a big way, beginning with an official ceremony in which every Mayor, Governor and, of course the President, live from the El Zócalo balcony in Mexico City, reenact the moment when Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla declared emancipation from Spain in 1810, by sounding a huge bell in the town of Dolores. Two months later, the festive atmosphere continues with the recreation of the Revolution that was initiated to put an end to a dictatorship.

Meanwhile, in the States May is the month to rejoice with Latino pride and display the richness not just of the Mexican community, but of all Hispanics in general that have made relevant contributions to the American culture, in so many different fields such as arts, politics, sports –way to go soccer fans!- gastronomy, etc.

In fact, it is also said that “Cinco de Mayo” became a popular event in California during the 1940’s and 1950’s, during the Chicano cultural and civil rights movement. Nowadays, of course, there are special activities and events that you can enjoy almost everywhere, from Disneyland-Anaheim all the way to the White House.

So get ready to party, have fun and embrace the beauty and diversity of Latino society while screaming from the top of your lungs: “Viva el Sincou de mayo!” And don’t be shy, go ahead and shake those maracas!!!