Cinco de Mayo: The Importance of Celebration

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It’s May 5. You and your friends are stumbling down the streets of East Lansing, wearing sombreros after a tequila-filled party. You wonder to yourself, “wait, what are we celebrating again?”

It’s time that we, as adults, do some research on non-American holidays we choose to celebrate. Although May 5, 1862 was an important day for Mexico, it’s not actually Mexican Independence Day (officially celebrated on September 16), which many people assume. 

According to the History Channel, newly elected Mexican President Benito Juárez negotiated debt payments with Spanish and British troops in 1861, after years of financial strife in his country. France also awaited payments, but Napoleon III decided to try and make an empire out of Mexican territory. The French invaded Veracruz, Mexico later that year, forcing Juarez and his government to retreat.

The tables turned in Puebla, Mexico on May 5, 1862. The Mexican military had only 2,000 men compared to France’s 6,000, but still achieved the unlikely victory; France lost 500 men while Mexico lost fewer than 100. Can you say, underdog?

A victory like this deserves celebration for sure, and we at ing Magazine want everyone to know exactly what they’re celebrating on May 5 and how to mindfully celebrate. 

Cultural appropriation is defined by the Cambridge Dictionary as, “the act of taking or using things from a culture that is not your own, especially without showing that you understand or respect the culture.” Sure, margaritas and sombreros are fun, but what do they really highlight: a victory or a misrepresentation of culture?

Sharing cultural aspects across the world can help connect people through their differences, but the connection becomes weak or dies when we don’t take into account what we’re actually doing. Mexico doesn’t recognize Cinco de Mayo as a national holiday and the city of Puebla only recognizes it through military reenactments. When attention is put on tequila and colorful hats, rather than the historical positivity behind that event, we’re doing it wrong.

So on this May 5, try not to have a Napoleon complex. Chill on the sombreros and have a drink at your favorite local authentic Mexican restaurant in honor of the underdog.