The date “Cinco de Mayo” is a very well-known and often celebrated holiday in the United States, even to have its own parades and “fiestas” in certain cities and regions. It is a celebration of Mexican culture, food, tradition and all other influences of the Mexican-American relations.
The origin of this holiday and the date is not in reference to the Mexican independence day (September 16; also known as “Grito de Dolores”), but rather to a battle that took place near the city of Puebla in Mexico where a small Mexican militia were triumphant in the face of a French fleet that was not only well-armed and consider to be the strongest force of its time, but also how the French Fleet outnumbered the militia with over twice in force (Some accounts vary from 2000-6000 in difference to 4,000-8,000).
The reason why a victory in the Franco-Mexican war (1861-1867) is of significance to the United States is highly due to the implications it might have had if the French were successful in conquering Mexico City, their target. The invasion came to happen because of the near bankruptcy and debt that Mexico had at the time with Spain, Britain, and France. Through negotiation Spain and Britain withdrew their naval forces that were sent to demand reimbursement. France, on the other hand, used it as an opportunity to acquire a foothold in Mexico that would favor French interests greatly. What makes all this relevant to the United States is that the U.S. Civil Wars were
taking place at this epoch (1861-1865) and how the French were planning to aid the Confederacy in that war which could have vastly affected the war. The victory in Puebla represented a significant morale boost to the Mexican army and the Mexican people at large, although ultimately a short-lived victory for a year later an army of 30,000 units would come to capture and rule Mexico.
Cinco de Mayo isn’t as well celebrated in Mexico, besides parades and staged commemorations of the battle in the city of Puebla, however it is mostly well-known and celebrated in the United States. In the 1930s, It was used as an opportunity to celebrate Mexican identity, promote ethnic consciousness and build community, to build Mexican-American pride and solidarity.
In the 1980s the holiday began to be commercialized and to promote a celebration of Mexican food, culture, traditions, and so on.
Mexican culture have had influence in the United States when it comes to many things, such as food in the creation of Tex-Mex cuisine such as nachos and flour tortillas which are very popular in the United States, besides burrito, tacos, quesadillas, the list goes on.
Piñatas are commonly seen in birthday parties, and celebrations for a girl’s 15 birthday, a “Quinceañera” party, are seen throughout some communities, even having the American “Sweet 16” as a reference. Spanish being a popular second or third language in schools, perhaps even chiefly preferred in jobs depending the state or city such as Texas or Florida.
Communities with Mexican roots and those that come from them have helped shaped America as many people of different nationalities be it Irish, German, English, etc. It’s for these reasons and more that Cinco de Mayo is celebrated year after year in the United States.