Feliz Cinco de Mayo! Saturday, May 5th, is the day Americans honor a great Mexican holiday by, ummm … drinking many margaritas and cheering on plump men wearing sombreros and strumming guitarróns.
Here is a video of the venerable Mexican mariachi band Mariachi Vargas performing “Cielito Lindo Huasteco:”
The American fascination with Cinco De Mayo (the fifth of May) actually puzzles Mexicans. They, in contrast, don’t throw a big party for, let’s say, the Battle of Saratoga. Even New Yorkers don’t do that, although the Saratoga National Historic Park has a lovely re-enactment event. (It’s really quite stirring in its own way; you should go.)
May 5th 1862 was the date of the Battle of Puebla, which resulted in Mexico’s first victory over the French in a war that started when Mexico defaulted on debt payments. It was an improbable Mexican victory, given that France was one of the 19th century’s Great Powers and had twice the troops (if you could use “troops” to describe the ragtag militia Mexico fielded). The conflict would run six years and see Mexico City occupied by France between 1864 and 1867, before the Mexicans drove the French out of the country. Most Mexicans don’t care. But the event is still a big deal in Puebla, the fourth largest city in Mexico. It’s especially big this year, the battle’s 150th anniversary.
Puebla has gone all out, spending $62 million on events and festivals to draw tourists.
But the U.S. really does up Cinco de Mayo. There are some 200 major parties scheduled around the U.S., Chico State Professor Jose Alamillo told The Huffington Post.
Many Americans seem to confuse Cinco de Mayo with Mexican Independence Day, which is September 16th. In fact, the holiday seems to have been fostered primarily by beer companies seeking Latin American customers in the 1960s.
Any reason for a party, we guess. It’s hard to argue with an event that’s created so much cross-cultural good will in the U.S. So, for our Friday music video, we honor Cinco de Mayo with this piece from salsa master Marc Antonio Muñiz, better known as Marc Anthony. He’s from New York, but appropriately enough for Cinco de Mayo, he’s named for a Mexican singing star, and he’s headlining Puebla’s fiesta.