Life & Culture

Cinco de Mayo

Hey everybody, when you mark Older Americans Month, do it with a Marguerita. It’s also Cinco de Mayo!

What’s there to celebrate?

In the 1860s the French decided to carve an empire for themselves in Mexico. With that goal in mind, they sent their military to launch a first-strike attack. To the French’s considerable surprise – they expected a quick win – Mexico’s rag-tag army prevailed in the first battle that took place on the outskirts of the town of Puebla.

The Battle of Puebla lasted from daybreak until early evening. Barely 2,000 undertrained and poorly armed Mexicans forced France’s superior army of some 6,000 trained combatants into retreat. The casualty figures prove how fiercely the Mexicans fought.  Only 83 Mexicans died while 462 Frenchmen lost their lives.

The date was May 5, 1862 – Cinco de Mayo.

The May 5th achievement was a great symbolic victory for Mexico’s then struggling, debt-ridden government. Even though the French succeeded in overrunning Mexican forces in subsequent battles, the resistance remained strong. By 1867 France abandoned its empire-building dream in that country.

Cinco de Mayo – outside Mexico

There is an interesting paradox about Cinco de Mayo. The Mexican achievement gets a great attention in the United States – indeed, the U.S. issued a colorful stamp commemorating the battle – but the victory gets scant attention in Mexico!

Many reasons are cited for this; two are the most important. First, Cinco de Mayo isn’t Mexico’s Independence Day (that’s on September 16th). But possibly the most important reason the date is substantially ignored in Mexico is that there is a great deal of smart Cinco de Mayo marketing north of the country’s border.

Some years ago Corona beer (which is Mexican in origin) linked its offerings to Cinco de Mayo. With a lot of fanfare, it made the beer a celebratory item to imbibe. It worked!

Since then, Cinco de Mayo celebration signs begin appearing in late April and early May in bars and restaurants in Houston, Chicago, Los Angeles and New York — all cities with large Mexican-American populations.  While plenty of Corona beer is imbibed, Margueritas have become the celebratory cocktails of choice. Almost everyone, not just Mexican-Americans, enjoys “lifting a glass” to celebrate Cinco de Mayo on the day as well as before, after…and (sometimes) thereafter.

Meanwhile, in Mexico, banks and businesses (but not schools) remain open on May 5th.  – except in Puebla where Cinco de Mayo is a declared holiday and most Puebla businesses close. People, many in colorful costumes, fill the streets to watch the town’s Cinco de Mayo parade which includes dancing, music, singing and battle re-enactments.

The good news?  A great place to celebrate Cinco de Mayo is…in the U.S.A. On that day you can lift a Marguerita – or your beverage of choice – in remembrance of the Battle of Puebla won in Mexico on May 5th, 1862 – 60 years ago this year.

Nona Aguilar is an award-winning writer of numerous magazine articles and two books. She has also edited four specialty business newsletter publications. Her work has appeared in Ladies Home Journal, Redbook, Family Circle and Cosmopolitan, and in The Business Owner.



Photo (top) by Filip Gielda on Unsplash

Photo (middle):  Tai’s Captures on Unsplash



One response to “Cinco de Mayo

  1. Enjoyed the article and we celebrated Cinco de Mayo at Brookdale, the senior facility where I live, with margueritas and a rendition of “De Colores” sung by the Spanish conversation club (on May 5th of course). Lots of fun!

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