Rather than being an excuse to indulge in nachos, tacosmixes and daisiesCinco de Mayo has a deep history and continues to serve as a vehicle for transmitting Mexican culture, pride, and values.

Here are some things to know about the day:

Cinco de Mayo commemorates Mexico’s unexpected victory over France at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862. The conflict between the two countries had begun in 1861, after Benito Juárez, then president of Mexico, suspended payments of the nation’s foreign debt and Napoleon III responded by sending French troops to invade.

The victory at Puebla galvanized the Mexican forces, but it proved to be short-lived, and France later occupied the country and installed Maximilian I as emperor. It was not until 1867 that the new Mexican Republic finally expelled the French, executed Maximilian I, and regained control of the country.

Cinco de Mayo literally means “May 5” in Spanish, which is when this celebration of Mexican heritage falls each year. The day, commemorated mostly by Mexican Americans north of the US border, is also celebrated in Puebla, the town and region southeast of Mexico City where the holiday originated.

No. Cinco de Mayo is often confused with Mexican Independence Day in the United States, but Mexico’s independence is actually celebrated on September 16. On that day in 1810, a priest named Miguel Hidalgo called on the Mexican people to rebel against the government. from Spain, which ultimately led to the War of Independence, which ended in 1821.

Jessica Lavariega Monforti, vice chancellor of California State University, Channel Islands, said that Cinco de Mayo had been celebrated in California every year since its inception in 1863. In that first year, Mexicans and Americans from the state came together to commemorate the anniversary. of the Battle of Puebla and use it to raise money and recruit men to help those still fighting under Juárez’s leadership against the French.

Those early celebrations, Dr. Lavariega Monforti said, were primarily about fighting for democracy and freedom against white supremacists and other oppressors, both in Mexico and in Civil War-era California, where majority Latinos they favored a Union victory over the Confederacy.

Cinco de Mayo continued to be celebrated in the United States, largely thanks to the efforts of Mexican descendants. Jeffrey M. Pilcher, a history professor at the University of Toronto, said followers of dictator Porfirio Díaz, who ruled Mexico on and off between 1876 and 1911, and had been a general in the Battle of Puebla, continue to celebrate Cinco de Mayo while living in exile in South America.

The celebration gradually became a festival for Mexicans and Mexican Americans across the country, as well as part of a developing Mexican American civil rights movement that began in the 1940s. Many activists began to point to Cinco de Mayo as a source of pride, said Dr. Lavariega Monforti.

Over time, however, that message of cultural pride seemed to fade. Mr. Pilcher said that Cinco de Mayo began to take off in the United States in the 1970s and 1980s, when beer companies began to capitalize on it as a way to attract consumers amid the growing popularity of Mexican restaurants. .

“By the 1990s, most of the public discourse on the day had refocused on it as a time to consume imported beer, tequila and Mexican food,” said Dr. Lavariega Monforti.

In Mexico, the holiday is marked in the state of Puebla with historical reenactments of the Battle of Puebla, parades, mariachi music, colorful costumes, and fireworks. “For many Mexicans, however, May 5 is a day like any other. It is not a federal holiday, so offices, banks and stores remain open,” said Dr. Lavariega Monforti.

The celebrations are most visible in the United States. Dr. Lavariega Monforti said that some communities in the United States, especially those with roots in the Puebla region, have tried to reclaim the celebration as their own in recent years.

These efforts are most visible in larger cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Chicago, where events are dedicated to celebrations of Pueblan dance, literature, and food. In New York City, some Mexican folk troupes also treat Cinco de Mayo as an opportunity to draw attention to the historical events and culture of the Puebla region.

“It appears that these efforts are direct responses to the consumerism surrounding Cinco de Mayo and the commercialization of Latino culture in the United States,” said Dr. Lavariega Monforti.

US presidents also traditionally mark the occasion. President Biden and Jill Biden, the first lady, will host a Cinco de Mayo reception in the Rose Garden on Thursday, which will also Beatriz Gutiérrez Muller will attendthe first lady of Mexico.

There is no Mexican dish associated with the holiday, Mr. Pilcher explained, but it can still be an occasion to bring together and honor the culinary traditions of Mexico and Puebla.

Pedro Reyes, a Mexican food writer and creative director of Paladar, a Mexican company dedicated to the development of culinary projects, said that the mole poblano, the rich chocolate version of the mole that originated in Puebla, could be a good choice for a fiesta inspired by Cinco de Mayo. She suggested accompanying the dish with chalupas, small fried tortillas that are enjoyed with a variety of fillings; White rice; Nopales Salad; fried beans; Y banana molotes, stuffed plantain empanadas. In addition to beer and tequila, drinks could include agua fresca, a light fruit drink in flavors such as hibiscushorchata and tamarind, as well as pulque, a fermented alcoholic beverage.

And please, keep your peas as far away from your avocados as possible, At least on this occasion. “I mean, don’t get me wrong, I like them, I can eat them,” Mr. Reyes said. “But where is the need to mess with my guacamole?”


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