Cinco de Mayo and it’s Cultural Significance
By: Good2GoPublished: May 4, 2015
Does your family like to look for fun activities that also have some historical or cultural significance to add value to the day? Well then heading out to a Cinco de Mayo celebration near you on May 5th may be just the thing. You can learn something about the Mexican American culture while enjoying the colorful decorations, parades, mariachi music, games and eating some tasty traditional foods. And of course what celebration would be complete without a display of fireworks to cap it off?
Historically, the Cinco de Mayo holiday marks an important point in history where the Mexican people were in much need of a morale lifting experience. They were in the aftermath of two financially devastating wars, the Mexican-American War of 1846-1848 and the Reform War of 1858-1861. The Mexican economy was almost bankrupt. The downturn forced Mexican President Benito Juarez to issue a moratorium to stop payments on all foreign debt for 2 years.
France, under Napoleon III, planned to exploit Mexico’s weakened state. They had aspirations of taking over the country and forming a Second Mexican Empire favorable to France’s interests.The initial invading French force expected little resistance as they entered through the city of Veracruz with 8,000 men, but instead were met by a force of approximately 4,000 poorly-equipped Mexican militia. Although disadvantaged, Mexican forces were able to defeat the French on May 5, 1862.
This unlikely victory over one of the most elite fighting forces at the time has been cause for celebration and pride ever since. It anchored the Mexican cultural heritage in the belief that they are a tough, committed, community-centered people. It defined them as a community of people who could prevail against all odds.
Cultural Significance Shifts to America
On May 9, 1862 Cinco de Mayo was declared a national holiday by President Juarez. Although still a source of pride for the Mexican people it has lost some of its importance as a national holiday over time.
As the cultural significance of Cinco de Mayo lessened in Mexico, its importance and popularity increased within the Mexican American culture. The day has become a symbol of Mexican American heritage and a great source of pride. The celebration offers the community an opportunity to express pride in their cultural heritage while sharing it with others.
Interest in the holiday of Cinco de Mayo expanded greatly in the 1950s and 1960s. Folks saw the celebration as a way to enhance bicultural relations between the growing Mexican American community and the Anglo communities. The celebratory nature of the holiday, with festivals and fiestas, allowed multiple cultures to intermingle in a fun setting while getting to know each other better. As the civil rights movement grew in the 1960s and 1970s, Cinco de Mayo became even more popular.
The 1980s brought about the commercialization of the holiday as businesses, especially those who sold alcohol, saw an opportunity to enter into the Hispanic market of 40 million people and growing. To some the holiday became more of a drinking holiday rather than an expression of community self-determination and Mexican heritage.
In spite of that, on June 7th 2005, the U.S. Congress issued a concurrent resolution, which gives recognition to something of importance, in this case Cinco de Mayo and the value it adds as a vehicle to unite our communities. The resolution suggests that the Cinco de Mayo holiday is worthy of national significance and celebration by us all.
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