Cinco de Mayo means fifth of May in Spanish. Cinco de Mayo history commemorates the victory of the Mexicans against the French in 1862. On that day in 1862, a brave but small and poorly armed 4,500 soldiers fought against the French invasion of well-equipped 8,000 soldiers. The Battle of Puebla was a legendary battle that lasted 4 hours and the triumph of the Mexicans is credited to the small army led by General Ignacio Zaragoza. To the Mexicans, the Battle of Puebla is of great importance because it symbolizes the pride of the Mexican nationals. It created in them a sense of unity and patriotism, even though they were just a small army of untrained citizens.
The first Cinco de Mayo celebration was held in the United States. In 1967, a group of students from California State University held a celebration to commemorate the victory of the Mexicans against the French invasion. They started this tradition because they felt that there are no other Mexican holidays being celebrated. One of their purposes was to establish a connection to the establishment of a Chicano Studies program in their university. That is how the tradition of Cinco de Mayo celebration began.
Float parades and marching bands mark the beginning of a Cinco de Mayo celebration. In the parade, marchers are dressed in French soldier uniforms and Mexican soldier outfits in portraying this magnificent event in history. To make the portrayal even more realistic, they even have props machetes and old fashioned rifles. Women wear flowery hats and skirts to represent the “soldaderos” that traveled with the Mexican army, cooked their food, and took care of them when injured. Festivals and fiestas are the highlight of the day. In the middle of the afternoon, the re-enactment of the Battle of Puebla begins in the plaza. The sound of the rifles and canons are so realistic that it brings amazement to the spectators. By nightfall, all the shouting and smoke in the area has subsided, and of course, the Mexican General is victorious. The night is ended with speeches from government officials, lively street dancing, bull fights, and piñata breaking for the children.
Cinco de Mayo means a lot not just to Mexicans, but Americans as well. The victory of the Mexicans against the French invasion marked the end of foreign power acting on North American soil. Had it not been for the victory of the Mexicans, France would have probably gained control on North America during the Civil War.
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