Cinco de Mayo is a very confusing holiday: various myths swirl around its origins and what it represents that persists to this day! For Mexico’s northern neighbor, the United States celebrates Cinco de Mayo as if it were a national Mexican holiday, with full force, but often shrouded in misunderstandings and confusion. In this article, we will debunk three myths about Cinco de Mayo so that if you do choose to celebrate this day, you are informed!
Cinco de Mayo is NOT a national holiday in Mexico: it is only really celebrated in Puebla, MX & the United States
Cinco de Mayo, the beloved US holiday…yes…US holiday! Cinco de Mayo is more celebrated in the United States than in Mexico! Many people from the United States believe that Cinco de Mayo carries great importance for ALL Mexicans and therefore must be celebrated throughout Mexico much like how the 4th of July is celebrated in the US, but no: really, mostly the US and Puebla, MX (where the original battle occurred) treat this day as a holiday!
Cinco de Mayo was not a battle with the Spanish, but rather, with the French!
When I ask my students, who fought Mexico in the battle of Puebla on the fifth of May, many respond with a resounding “The Spanish!” In our mental schemas, Mexico and Spain are so closely linked. However, Cinco de Mayo was a battle between Mexico and France, fought at Puebla! See this link for the full story.
Cinco de Mayo is NOT Mexico’s Independence Day
As you probably surmised above, Cinco de Mayo is NOT Mexico’s Independence Day. Mexico received independence from Spain on September 16th, 1810: decades before the battle. Also, the battle was with the French. For a full story, check out this video below, which I feature in my Webquest on Cinco de Mayo, where I spend time debunking myths on the holiday so that students are more informed!
Cinco de Mayo may have a lot of controversy surrounding it, however, it is a beautiful representation of Mexican courage, resiliency, and determination. The Mexican army was greatly outnumbered by the sophisticated French army, yet Mexico was able to defend their country and their land! Remember that next time you celebrate Cinco de Mayo with your family!
Question for students:
When have you ever had to be courageous? How do you think that moment changed your life?