How America stole Cinco de Mayo

in Opinion by

This Cinco de Mayo, I’ll be taking a math quiz. However, for 100 million other Americans, May 5 is a day to celebrate the traditional Mexican holiday. Yet, Cinco de Mayo is not a “traditional” Mexican holiday at all. How can a holiday that is recognized so widely in the United States not even be observed in its native country? 

The answer is simple: America loves to party. And with its vibrant, festive colors and delicious food, Cinco de Mayo is the perfect excuse to take the day off and celebrate. My concern is that this mindset causes us to lose appreciation for holidays as we only look forward to the break, not the culture or history. 

For example, the vast majority of Americans falsely believe that Cinco de Mayo is Mexico’s Independence Day. That holiday, officially known as El Grito de Dolores, takes place Sept. 16. Cinco de Mayo, on the other hand, honors the Mexican army’s victory over the French at the Battle of Puebla May 5, 1862. It marked a landmark win for the Mexicans in the Franco-Mexican War and was a strong symbol of resistance against foreign powers. 

Cinco de Mayo first appeared in the United States during the late 1800s through migration. Mexican migrants wished to instate their existing traditions in their new homes, and, in a time where they faced segregation and prejudice, the holiday was especially significant. However, over the years, Americans have adopted the tradition as their own, transforming Cinco de Mayo into a business venture rather than a commemoration of military triumph.

“Cinco de Mayo has changed from a beautiful and solemn holiday of respect to a day known for cheap margaritas and piñatas,” sophomore Dylan Dueñas said. “Mexico doesn’t even observe Cinco de Mayo as an official holiday.”

Spanish teacher Judy Ramos had similar sentiments regarding the holiday. “I find it really funny that most people think Cinco de Mayo is actually Mexico’s Independence Day. It goes to show the cultural disconnect and how people don’t care enough to learn about what they’re celebrating,” she said.

Holidays such as Cinco de Mayo are not just opportunities for breaks. They are opportunities to honor different cultures and heritages. So this Cinco de Mayo, before you start your own fiesta, consider taking a moment to appreciate the history behind the holiday. 

Traditional Cinco de Mayo celebrations often include live dances. Dancers wear vibrant, colorful dresses to stand out while they perform. (Photo/Wikimedia Commons

Irene is a sophomore at American Heritage who is entering her first year as a staff member for the Patriot Post. She loves reading (practically anything she can manage to get her hands on), watching movies, volunteering and listening to music. Her passion for writing started early at the age of 8 and she has been involved in both creative writing and journalism since then. Other than being in newspaper she is involved in a lot of different clubs at Heritage such as Best Buddies, Key Club, HOSA, UNICEF, Amnesty International and more.

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