By Adam Schubak, Jamie Ballard
Cinco de Mayo has evolved into a huge celebration in many communities across the U.S. meant to honor Mexican culture and heritage. But why do we celebrate it in the first place?
Cinco de Mayo is not Mexico’s Independence Day.
Many people believe that Cinco de Mayo marks Mexico gaining independence as a country, similar to Independence Day in the U.S. And while it does celebrate a national victory, Cinco de Mayo isn’t Mexican Independence Day (which is actually on September 16). Cinco de Mayo (Spanish for May 5) celebrates the Mexican army’s victory over France at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862.
Mexico was the underdog in the Battle of Puebla. The Battle of Puebla was part of the Franco-Mexican War. One of the reasons it’s so significant is because the French army was much larger and more prepared than the Mexican army. They had more weaponry and men at their disposal, but the French still lost the battle to Mexico (though they did eventually win the war).
Mexican President Benito Juárez made it a holiday.
The anniversary of the Battle of Puebla was declared a national holiday referred to as “Battle of Puebla Day” or “Battle of Cinco de Mayo” by President Benito Juárez on May 9, 1862. However, it’s no longer considered a national holiday in Mexico.
President Franklin Roosevelt helped bring Cinco de Mayo celebrations to the U.S.
The holiday started to be celebrated in the U.S. after President Roosevelt created the “Good Neighbor Policy” in 1933 to improve relations with Latin American countries.
There’s an official holiday dish.
Mole poblano is considered to be the official dish of the holiday because it is traditionally eaten in the town of Puebla. It’s a sauce containing chili pepper, chocolate, and spices.
It’s growing in popularity, especially in California. Also, Every year, more and more towns across the U.S. plan Cinco de Mayo festivities and parades, and it’s extending across the globe to places like Australia, South Africa, and Japan.