FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Cinco de Mayo is this Friday and some people in the Fort Wayne area plan to go out and enjoy the festivities of the holiday.
What many Americans may not understand is why Cinco de Mayo is celebrated in the first place? It’s often confused with Mexico’s Independence Day, which occurred on Sept. 16, 1810 when the country declared independence from Spain. May 5 is celebrated by Mexicans for a different reason.
Why is Cinco de Mayo celebrated?
Cinco de Mayo is celebrated on May 5 because it recognizes the day in 1862 when Mexico’s army defeated France in the Battle of Puebla during the Franco-Mexican War. It’s also known as Battle of Puebla Day.
France sent troops to Mexico with hopes of taking control of Mexican territory to expand its empire. The French troops invaded the city of Veracruz, forcing the Mexican government to retreat. 6,000 French troops then made its way to Pueblo de Los Angeles, a small town in east-central Mexico and in response, Mexican President Benito Juarez gathered 2,000 men and sent them to the town to fight back.
Despite being vastly outnumbered by the French, Mexican troops being led by General Ignacio Zaragoza were able to hold off the French invasion and came out victorious.
“They were able to defeat the French with rocks and sticks and whatever they could find,” said Fernando Zapari, editor and publisher of El Mexicano newspaper in Fort Wayne.
It resulted in the Mexican army’s boost in national pride and therefore declaring May 5 a national holiday.
How it’s celebrated in Mexico and the United States
In Mexico, Cinco de Mayo is not celebrated across the entire country and mostly observed in the state of Puebla, where the Mexicans’ victory occurred. Zapari said there are some other parts of Mexico where they observe the holiday.
The celebrations in Mexico often include parades and reenactments of the Battle of Puebla, but for most Mexicans, it’s just another typical day.
Meanwhile in the United States, the holiday is celebrated as a way of honoring Mexican culture and heritage.
The holiday really gained notoriety in the U.S. in the 1960s by Chicano activists because many identified with the victory of Indigenous Mexicans over European invaders during the Battle of Puebla.
Many Americans celebrate Cinco de Mayo through parades, parties, mariachi music and Mexican foods such as tacos and mole poblano.
Some of the largest Cinco de Mayo festivals are held in cities like Los Angeles, Chicago and Houston.
“We don’t celebrate Cinco de Mayo in Mexico like we do in the United States,” he said.
Critics of how the U.S. celebrates the holiday often points to the promotion of stereotypes and excessive drinking.
For people who want to celebrate Cinco de Mayo, Fort Wayne will be having different festivals across the city. Electric Works plans to host a party and Union Street Market plans to host a festival.