If you didn’t already know, Cinco De Mayo is not Mexican Independence Day, which is on the 16th of September, but the day Mexico won the Battle of Puebla during its war in 1862 against France. This was a war that came from financial ruin and strife and after not being able to renegotiate debts owed to France. Napoleon III, who ruled over France, wanted to seize the opportunity to make Mexican territory a part of their empire. The French fleet came into Veracruz forcing the Mexican President and his government to retreat. About 6,000 French troops came marching, set to attack Puebla, but President Juárez gathered a troop of about 2,000 men led by General Ignacio Zaragoza to head to Puebla to meet the French attackers. They were able to fortify the town and prepare themselves to receive that attack. The battle lasted all day and when the French finally decided to retreat they had lost about 500 soldiers while there were fewer than 100 Mexican losses. While this Battle alone did not win the Franco-Mexican War it did bolster support for the Mexican government and the resistance efforts.
Cinco de Mayo, like Hispanic Heritage Month, is another reminder to get to know more about the different cultures of the world, so you have a better understanding every day of the year and not just on these occasions. Here are four things you can do instead of just partying to learn about the Mexican and Mexican American heritage.
1. Go to a museum
Try visiting or supporting Mexican arts or museums to learn about history, art, and culture. Maybe there’s a local Mexican-owned gallery or show that honors Mexican history or culture that you can visit with your family.
2. Listen to a podcast
Get to know what the community is like now; there are so many podcasts out there readily available that can teach you about historical events or even lifestyle podcasts that would give you insight directly from someone who has Mexican heritage.
3. Support Mexican businesses
If you do want to have a margarita and eat some delicious food that’s totally fine, but don’t go to whatever chain Mexican restaurant is closest. Give a Mexican-owned business a try whether it’s for food or anything else.
4. Tell others about the real story
After reading this little article you’ve learned a thing or two, especially if you do any of the three things listed above, so now you can teach others. Tell your family and friends about the things you’ve learned and maybe invite them to join you as you celebrate Cinco de Mayo.
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Thank you for this clear and concise explanation of Cinco de Mayo and good ways to learn more about Mexican culture than from commercially driven pseudo fiestas. I am a black American who loves and embraces all cultures. Well done!