No, it’s not a new brand of mayo. Cinco de Mayo is officially Spanish for May 5 – a celebration of pride and determination for Mexico in the Battle of Puebla. Swot up on these facts about the day which celebrates Mexican unity, resilience and character.
Aussies love a good underdog, and Mexico was it at the Battle of Puebla in the Franco-Mexican War. The French army was huge by comparison, with more weapons, men and strategy at their disposal. But in 1862, heart conquered game here. While the French eventually won overall, they couldn’t tally Puebla in their list of victories.
Because Cinco de Mayo is full of fun, food, culture and too much tequila, people often confuse it with Mexico’s Independence Day which is a very different thing. Mexico’s Day of Independence is September 16, when the country rose against Spanish rule in 1810.
The battle took place at the Forts of Guadalupe and Loreto in Puebla state. General Zaragoza lead a rag-tag force of some 4000 soldiers and local indigenous Zapotecs and Mixtecs. Paltry by comparison to the French, whose army was close to twice that. Armed with mere machetes, the Mexicans slashed and hacked their way through battle-weary French infantry. Popular legend even has it that a cattle stampede, instigated by Mexican peasants, trampled the French, who were battling uphill, when they least expected it. Bad-ass!
Fiesta like there’s no manana – Anon.
Where to celebrate
Cinco de Mayo is not a major holiday in wider Mexico, although students have the day off and there are civic events and parades. In Mexico, Puebla is where it’s at on May 5, and a battle re-enactment with fireworks and the whole she-bang plays out. In the United States though, it is something else! The world’s largest Cinco de Mayo celebrations take place in Los Angeles – a tradition since 1967 when some California State University students helped an Hispanic holiday gain nationwide significance. You see, the United States was engaged in the Civil War at the time, and the Mexican victory against the French saved them from becoming involved and supporting the Confederate Army against the United States forces. Neighbours – everybody needs good neighbours!
Guacamole and jalapeno poppers for all!
Cinco de Mayo is a great excuse to don all things Mexican, listen to Latin music, cook Mexican food, and hear stories about Mexican culture. Bust out the red, white and green, mariachi band and guitars, or maracas – but keep it culturally sensitive – no sombreros and fake moustaches! Mexcians love to decorate their homes colourfully, pinatas can add ambience, so too can dancing the salsa or Mexican Hat Dance. And guacamole on everything. Happy Cinco de Mayo!
TripADeal travels to Mexico here.