CInco De Mayo has earned quite a reputation. Throughout the United States, the holiday has largely become an excuse for Americans to get drunk and misappropriate Mexican culture. Despite the revelry, the origin and meaning of the holiday confounds Latinos and non-Latinos alike. So, what's the deal with May the 5th anyway?
Before you toast to the fifth of May, learn a little bit about the history of the day:
No, it's not Mexican Independence Day: Please do not wish any Mexicans a "Happy Independence Day" on May 5. Mexicans celebrate their freedom on September 16.
It does celebrate a famous military victory: The fifth of May commemorates Mexico's victory over France at the Battle of Puebla during the Franco-Mexican War. On May 5, 1862, a small band of Mexicans were somehow able to conquer the massive French army. The battle marked a stunning defeat for the French, whom most predicted would have a swift, brutal victory in the Latin American country. However, the Mexican triumph didn't last long; the French won the Second Battle of Puebla a year later on May 17, 1863.
Today, Cinco De Mayo is still celebrated in Puebla. However, it is not celebrated in most other parts of the country.
Cinco de Mayo is more officially recognized in the United States than in Mexico: In 2005, Congress declared the fifth of May an official national holiday to celebrate Mexican-American heritage. Typically, the President of the United States also hosts a Cinco De Mayo reception at the White House, complete with folklórico dancers.
The Americanization of the holiday has roots with Mexican farm workers: As José M Alamillo notes, many believe the holiday grew in popularity because of the migrant farmworkers of Corona, Calif. — one of the first U.S. cities to host official Cinco De Mayo celebrations. Today, the Cinco De Mayo festivities continue in this California town; they host a parade, which features local heroes as grand marshals, and sponsor a scholarship program tied to the event. It has no connection to Corona Extra, the beer that also helped make the day famous.
Beer companies made the holiday what it is today: In the 1980s, Corona and other beer companies aptly recognized the profitability of the rising Latino population in the United States.Through a series of well-received advertisements, Corona helped transform Cinco De Mayo into an all-day happy hour celebration, encouraging the growing Mexican and Mexican-American population to celebrate their heritage on May 5 by purchasing Mexican beer.
These days, Corona still spends massive amounts of money on advertising campaigns centered around the holiday. Kantar Media reports that in 2013, the brand spent $91 million on English and Spanish advertisements, calling itself "the original party beer of Cinco De Mayo."
Avocado sales soar on Cinco de Mayo: Americans celebrating Cinco De Mayo at least take the time to celebrate one authentically Mexican food: avocado. According to the California Avocado Commission, Americans consume more than 81 million avocados on May 5.
There is an appropriate way to celebrate Cinco de Mayo: Believe it or not, there is an appropriate, respectful and fun way to enjoy Cinco de Mayo! Mexican culture is awesome, and it deserves to be celebrated. Don't wear sombreros or fake mustaches or ponchos or say demeaning things about the culture of Mexico. Do indulge in some authentic, Mexican fare at a local taqueria (maybe skip the Chipotle), imbibe in a margarita, and listen (and dance!) to some of the music of the great nation. Salud!