Most people are aware that Cinco de Mayo means the 5th of May in Spanish, right? Well, grab a barstool and I’ll quench your thirst to know more about the significance of this coming Saturday, May 5, 2018.
- What Happened?
The year was 1861, when the weakened, under-equipped, and significantly out-numbered Mexican army was facing an invasion by a well-trained, battle-hardened French army. The occasion for the invasion? Mexico was nearly bankrupt and owed a few European nations some cash they borrowed while fighting the Mexican–American War and the Reform War. The Mexican-American War was over territory, which they were defeated, and the Reform War was Mexico’s civil war resulting in the separation of church from state, which had just ended earlier in 1861. So anyway, now France, Britain, and Spain were all heading over to collect some debt.
After some negotiating, Britain and Spain said something along the lines of, “Listen, Mexico, we like you okay? So here’s what we’re going to do. We’ll give you an extension, but we’re still going need that money back once you’re back on your feet, capisce?” This is clearly a quote that I made up, but the idea was the same. They left Mexico alone to figure a few things out, and lick their wounds for a minute. France, on the other hand, under the rule of Napoleon III, decided to take advantage of their weakened state and attempt to conquer some vital Mexican territory furthering the reaches and power of their empire. Pendejo!
Incredibly, too much of the world’s surprise, on May 5, 1862, France was decisively defeated by Mexico in the Battle of Puebla, halting the French invasion. This victory was exactly what Mexico needed to reunite its people and boost their national pride after their recent loss and civil war. With the turmoil happening across the western world at the time, this was definitely a feat worth celebrating. Though unfortunately, it did end up being short-lived, the boost it gave to Mexico’s moral and the impact it had on the rest of the world at the time, was significant enough to celebrate and remember year after year.
Surprisingly, it is no longer an official national holiday in Mexico, but schools are still closed for the day and people take the day off work, while parades and celebrations ensue. Why is it such a big deal in the United States though? Why are Americans celebrating by eating at their favorite Mexican restaurants and ordering fishbowl-sized margaritas on Cinco de Mayo? Americans didn’t do anything. Well, put on your shades, as I shine a light on the big picture.
- Why the U.S. Celebrates
Okay, maybe it’s not that exciting, but there is a good reason for Americans to celebrate Mexico’s victory. At the time all this was taking place in Mexico, the United States was not so united. We had just taken sides in our own civil war, leaving our borders and infrastructure weak and vulnerable. If France would have marched through Mexico undefeated, today’s world maps and history books may have turned out very differently. So in commemoration to our friends from the south, we celebrate the fact that in defending themselves, they defended us as well. I’ll bet most you just assumed it was Mexico’s Independence Day, didn’t you?
- Not for You?
If chimichangas and margaritas are not your things, but you’d still like be a part of some kind of gathering or celebration, then this coming Friday could be right up your alley. Friday is May 4th, the unofficial, yet widely recognized Star Wars Day. It was an easy date to pick considering how “May the fourth” looks and sounds so much like the iconic phrase from the Star Wars series, “May the force be with you.”
I’m beginning to feel a disturbance in this talk, so I better close my tab and head out. Thank you for reading and see all you los hombres y las mujeres next week.