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May 5, 2017 blog

Cinco de Mayo: what are we celebrating?

For many Iowans of non-Mexican heritage, Cinco de Mayo (May 5th in English) means eating Mexican food and maybe attending the different festivities across the state. But do we know what exactly we are celebrating?

Cinco de Mayo is NOT Mexico’s Independence Day. Mexican Independence Day is celebrated September 16th, commemorating Mexico’s independence from Spain.

May 5th (Cinco de Mayo) commemorates the Battle of Puebla, the Mexican Army’s unlikely victory over the French forces on May 5, 1862.

In Mexico, the state of Puebla where the victory occurred and some parts of the country take part in the celebration. Traditionally celebrations include military parades, folkloric dances and recreations of the Battle of Puebla where people dress up as French and Mexican soldiers.  There’s no tequila, parties, and people don’t go around saying “Happy Cinco de Mayo." Most people go to work, school and about their day just like any other day.

In Iowa and in most of the United States, Cinco de Mayo has been interpreted as a celebration of the Mexican Culture in the United States. Luis Arredondo from West Des Moines and Mexican native shared that he likes having a day where the Mexican culture is celebrated. And Marlu Abarca, daughter or Mexican parents mentioned that to her the Cinco de Mayo celebration is parallel to St. Patrick’s Day.

For many others it’s the celebration of that one time that the Mexican Army won the battle out of the many times that Mexico was invaded by others.

Written by: Sonia Reyes-Snyder, Office of Latino Affairs