So I use to think Cinco De Mayo was Mexican Independence Day. Don’t be surprised, because many people do, even Wikipedia says- ” Contrary to widespread popular belief, Cinco de Mayo is not Mexico’s Independence Day—the most important national patriotic holiday in Mexico—which is actually celebrated on September 16.” Guess I am not alone.
My education came when I was 21 and working in the White House office of Public Liaison and we were planing the annual big Cinco De Mayo party with the President. Being half Puerto Rican my boss, who was Mexican, and I use to joke back and forth about our two groups. So when I asked her if there were any traditions surrounding Mexican Independence Day that were observed, like do they have fireworks displays, she took my ignorance for a joke.
Later on I said something again along the lines of “it’s so cool that we can celebrate another countries independence here” and she knew I was serious.
“You know Cinco De Mayo isn’t Mexico’s Independence Day right?” She said.
“Umm, no, what is it?” I said.
What proceeded was a week long worth of taunting by both my boss and my family as to my ignorance and it still is an inside joke today. Five years latter I wound up working with a University in Puebla Mexico and actually visiting the Cinco De Mayo battlefield. So now I’m up on my History.
Flash forward to today and Cinco De Mayo has become a bigger holiday in the U.S. than ever before. But to say that the masses that annual go out and increase tequila sales are doing it for any other reason then to party would be a joke. It is, to draw from the other 1/2 of my heritage, the Mexican St. Patrick’s Day.
Are you “not Latino enough” when you don’t celebrate it? Well if the celebration is only about drinking and that’s not your thing, I definitely say no. But still, I’ll admit as someone who was once ignorant, you should take the time to know about the History and find out about the Battle of Puebla. Cinco is a good time to get together with friends, listen to great Mariachi bands and sample some mole. The day has become a celebration of all things Mexican, and why would we argue with that? Invite your Gringos to the bar crawl this year and at some point share with them the real history, I’ll bet you’ll be surprised by how many people don’t know.
Just keep in mind, good tequila should be sipped, not shot.
[photo by Esparta]