The Truth About Cinco de Mayo

Cinco de Mayo used to be one of my favorite holidays when I lived in the US (one I still miss dearly), but I have to admit that I never really knew what I was celebrating until I moved to Mexico.

If you take a minute Wednesday night, in between the Tequila shots and the Dos Equis, to poll your sombrero headed, maraca shaking bar mates as to the reason of the fiesta, you will most likely get one of two responses: “I have no idea, let’s get another Tequila,” or, “I think it’s like the 4th of July for Mexico.” While you can never go wrong with another Tequila, answer number two is definitely incorrect.

The truth is that Cinco de Mayo, the holiday, does refer to a significant event in Mexican history; however, that event isn’t really significant enough to be celebrated in Mexico (outside of Puebla where the event actually took place). On the 5th of May, 1862, a battle weary, outnumbered Mexican army defeated a better-trained invading French army in the town of Puebla. Sadly, however, this upset victory was short lived. In a matter days, the French re-grouped, defeated the Mexican army, and established rule of the area. Hence the reason the holiday isn’t celebrated here in Mexico.

But that doesn’t mean that Americans shouldn’t party in the name of Puebla. We love an underdog victory, which is, in reality, what you’ll be celebrating on the 5th. So come Wednesday, in the name of the underdog, strap on that fake mustache and that poncho, charge head first into the battle of defeating that Tequila bottle, and don’t stop until you’ve achieved victory. And in the true spirit of Cinco de Mayo, proudly suffer inevitable defeat – in the form of an imperial hangover Thursday morning.

Friends of ours at recently published a related post called “13 Surprising facts about Cinco de Mayo,” which you may also enjoy.

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