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Cinco de Mayo (Spanish for "fifth of May") is a regional holiday in Mexicomarker, primarily celebrated in the state of Pueblamarker, with some limited recognition in other parts of Mexico. The holiday commemorates the Mexican army's unlikely victory over Frenchmarker forces at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862, under the leadership of Mexican General Ignacio Zaragoza Seguín.

The Battle was important for at least two reasons. First, although considerably outnumbered, the Mexicans defeated a much better-equipped French army. "This battle was significant in that the 4,000 Mexican soldiers were greatly outnumbered by the well-equipped French army of 8,000 that had not been defeated for almost 50 years." Second, it was significant because since the Battle of Puebla no country in the Americas has been invaded by an army from another continent.

Cinco de Mayo is not "an obligatory federal holiday" in Mexico, but rather a holiday that can be observed voluntarily. While Cinco de Mayo has limited significance nationwide in Mexico, the date is observed in the United Statesmarker (also voluntarily) and other locations around the world as a celebration of Mexican heritage and pride. Cinco de Mayo is not Mexico's Independence Day, which actually is September 16 , the most important national patriotic holiday in Mexico, nor is it The Day of the Dead, which occurs on November the 1st and 2nd..


In 1861, Mexico ceased making interest payments to its main creditors. In response, in late 1861, France (and other European countries) attacked Mexico to try to force payment of this debt. France decided that it would try to take over and occupy Mexico. The U.S. Monroe Doctrine opposed European colonization of the Americas, but at this time the American Civil War limited American ability to enforce this. France was successful at first in its invasion; however, on May 5, 1862, at the city of Pueblamarker, Mexican forces were able to defeat an attack by the larger French army. In the Battle of Puebla, the Mexicans were led by General Ignacio Zaragoza Seguín. Although the Mexican army was victorious over the French at Puebla, the victory only delayed the French advance on Mexico Citymarker; a year later, the French occupied Mexico. The French occupying forces placed Maximilian I, Emperor of Mexico on the throne of Mexico in 1864. The French, under U.S. pressure, eventually withdrew in 1866-1867. Maximilian was deposed by President Benito Juarez and executed, five years after the Battle of Puebla.

History of observance

Cinco de Mayo dancers greeted by President George W.
According to a paper published by the UCLAmarker Center for the Study of Latino Health and Culture about the origin of the observance of Cinco de Mayo in the United Statesmarker, the modern American focus on the people of the world that day first started in Californiamarker in the 1860s in response to the resistance to French rule in Mexico. The 2007 paper notes that "The holiday, which has been celebrated in California continuously since 1863, is virtually ignored in Mexico."



The holiday of Cinco de Mayo is primarily a regional holiday in Mexico. There is some limited recognition of the holiday in other parts of the country. "[Cinco de Mayo] is primarily a regional holiday celebrated in the Mexican state capital city of Puebla and through out the state of Puebla, with some limited recognition in other parts of Mexico."] Accessed May 5, 2007 For the most part the celebrations combine food, music, and dancing. In Mexico City, like the rest of the Mexican capitals, all the young men who serve the military services pledge allegiance to the Mexican national flag and the institutions that it represents.{{Fact|date=January 2009}} ===United States=== [[Image:Cinco de Mayo performers at White House.jpg|right|thumb|Cinco de Mayo performers at the [[White House]]]] In the United States, Cinco de Mayo has taken on a significance beyond that in Mexico."In historical terms, the battle that communities across America are preparing to celebrate this weekend isn't that significant, says John Renteria, director of Centro Civico Mexicano. The May 5, 1862, Battle of Puebla is barely even noticed in Mexico, Renteria said. But the celebration of the defeat of French invaders by an outnumbered Mexican army, led by a Texas-born general, is becoming distinctly American. "It's become more of a cultural, commercial phenomenon in terms of building awareness and educating the public about the Mexican culture," Renteria said. "It's really a U.S. day, not a Mexico thing, and that's fine with us." [,1249,660217535,00.html Statement by Mexican Consular official] Accessed May 8, 2007.[ "Cinco de Mayo has become more of [an American] holiday than a Mexican one."] accessed May 5, 2007 [ "Cinco de Mayo has become a day for celebrating Mexican culture in the United States, and celebrations there easily outshine those in Mexico."] Accessed May 8, 2007[ "Today, the holiday is celebrated more in the United States than in Mexico"]Accessed October 30, 2007 The date is perhaps best recognized in the United States as a date to celebrate the culture and experiences of [[Mexican American|Americans of Mexican ancestry]], much as [[Columbus Day]], [[St. Patrick's Day]], [[Oktoberfest]], and the [[Chinese New Year]] are used to celebrate those of [[Italians|Italian]], [[Irish American|Irish]], [[German American|German]], and [[Chinese American|Chinese]] ancestry respectively. Similar to those holidays, Cinco de Mayo is observed by many Americans regardless of ethnic origin. Celebrations tend to draw both from traditional Mexican symbols, such as the [[Virgen de Guadalupe]], and from prominent figures of Mexican descent in the United States, including [[César Chávez]]. In some locations with significant non-Mexican hispanic communities, such as Florida, the celebration has grown to include non-Mexicans. [] Accessed May 8, 2007. To celebrate, many display Cinco de Mayo banners while [[school district]]s hold special events to educate pupils about its historical significance. Special events and celebrations highlight Mexican culture, especially in its music and regional dancing. Examples include ''[[Baile Folklorico|baile folklórico]]'' and ''[[mariachi]]'' demonstrations held annually at the Plaza del [[Pueblo de Los Angeles]], near [[Olvera Street]]. Commercial interests in the United States have capitalized on the celebration, advertising Mexican products and services, with an emphasis on beverages, [ "[Cinco de Mayo] gives us an opportunity ... to really get a jump-start on the summer beer-selling season" New York Times Business section; May 2, 2003. Accessed October 30, 2007 foods, and music.


Events tied to Cinco de Mayo also occur outside Mexico and the United States. For example, a sky-diving club near Vancouvermarker in Canadamarker holds a Cinco de Mayo skydiving event. In the Cayman Islandsmarker, in the Caribbeanmarker, there is an annual Cinco de Mayo air guitar competition. As far away as the island of Maltamarker, in the Mediterranean Seamarker, revelers are encouraged to drink Mexican beer on May 5.

Popular culture references

  • Bob Dylan's song "Isis" references the date at the very beginning by narrating the title's character marriage, with the lyrics "on the fifth day of May...".
  • The band War had a minor hit with a track called "Cinco de Mayo", from their 1982 album Outlaw.
  • Ween refers to Cinco de Mayo in the song "Buenas Tardes Amigo".
  • The waltzing song "Mexico" from Cake's Prolonging the Magic album mentions Cinco de Mayo.
  • Fighting game Art of Fighting 3: The Path of the Warrior, set in the fictional Mexican-American city of Glasshill, has one stage called "Cinco de Mayo", which draws clear inspiration from this event (this is the only stage in the game to have no background music; instead, the sound of the parade running at the stage's background serves as the stage's theme).
  • Herb Alpert recorded a song called "Cinco de Mayo", which was the B-side of his hit "Spanish Flea".
  • Liz Phair included a song called "Cinco de Mayo" on her Whip-Smart album in 1994.
  • American post-hardcore band Senses Fail included a song called "Cinco de Mayo" as a bonus track for its sophomore album Still Searching
  • 5 Second Films created a Cinco de Mayo movie called Don't Thinko de Mayo
  • In the AMC TV show Breaking Bad, Gomez (played by Steven Michael Quezada) invites Hank (played by Dean Norris) out for beers, saying that he was buying, Hank jokes, "You're buying? Holy crap. What, is it Cinco de Mayo already?"

See also


  1. [1] Retrieved February 6 2009.
  2. "The anniversary of the victory is celebrated only sporadically in Mexico" - National Geographic Accessed December 4, 2007
  3. National Geographic: Defeat of French forces by Mexican Army Retrived February 6, 2009.
  4. Library of Congress (U.S.A.) Declaration Retrieved February 6, 2009.
  5. Philadelphia News Article reporting Mexican were outnumbered 2-to-1 The Bulletin: Philadelphia's Family Newspaper, "Cinco De Mayo: Join In The Celebration On The Fifth Of May", May 7, 2009. By Cheryl VanBuskirk. Retrieved June 5, 2009.
  6. PBS Reports French Army Knew No Defeat for Almost 50 Years. Retrieved February 6, 2009.
  7. The Philadelphia Bulletin "This was the last time any army from another continent invaded (Note: "invaded", not "attacked") the Americas." The Bulletin: Philadelphia's Family Newspaper, "Cinco De Mayo: Join In The Celebration On The Fifth Of May", May 7, 2009. By Cheryl VanBuskirk. Retrieved June 5, 2009. Note that since Cinco de Mayo no army from another continent has invaded the Americas. The War of the Falklands War, for example, was fought in the Americas but the Islands were invaded by a military from the Americas (the Argentine military). They were subsequently attacked (not invaded) by the UK. Another example, Pearl Harbor, experienced an attack, not an invasion by the Japanese. The only possible exception to the Cinco de Mayo claim above might be the brief occupation/invasion of two of the Alaskan Aleutian Islands by the Japanese military during WWII. This event, however, was so insignificant as to be virtually neglegible: the islands invaded had a total population of 12 Americans and some 45 natives, the invasion was short-lived, and the battle fought there had no notoriety other than the psychological effect on the Americans that the Japanese had invaded American territory again (Alaska was not yet a full-fledge state). In short, the military importance of this small, frozen piece of "land" was nowhere comparable to superior military significance of the Battle of Puebla.
  8. List of Public and Bank Holidays in Mexico April 14, 2008. This list indicates that Cinco de Mayo is not a dia feriado obligatorio ("obligatory holiday"), but is instead a holiday that can be voluntarily observed.
  9. Cinco de Mayo is not a federal holiday in México Accessed May 5, 2009
  10. Statement by Mexican Consular official Accessed May 8, 2007.
  11. [2] Retrieved February 6, 2009.
  12. [3] Retrieved February 6, 2009.
  13. Southern California Quarterly "Cinco de Mayo's First Seventy-Five Years in Alta California: From Spontaneous Behavior to Sedimented Memory, 1862 to 1937" Spring 2007 (see American observation of Cinco de Mayo started in California) accessed October 30, 2007. See also History of observance of Cinco de Mayo in United States accessed May 9, 2009.
  14. "From my perspective as a marketing professional, Cinco de Mayo has morphed into a national holiday designed by Fifth Avenue to sell alcohol and excite consumership around a party-type theme." Accessed May 5, 2007.
  15. "Cinco de Mayo is not just a fiesta anymore, the gringos have taken it on as a good sales pitch." Smithsonian Institution paper Accessed May 8, 2007. "It's a commercial entry point for people who want to penetrate the Latino market," said Felix Gutierrez, a journalism professor at the University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication in Los Angeles." Accessed May 8, 2007.
  16. "Cinco de Mayo Skydiving Boogie" Accessed 2008-05-05.
  17. Cayman Cinco de Mayo air guitar Accessed 2008-05-05.
  18. Celebration in Malta. Accessed 2008-05-05.
  19. [4]

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