Cozumel Holidays: Cinco de Mayo

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by Susan Welk de Valdez





When visitors or tourists inquire what we do here in Cozumel on May 5th, we respond by describing the traditional festivities at El Cedral. More often than not, they’re surprised to learn that Cinco de Mayo is a minor holiday on Mexico’s calendar and passes by every year with little or no fanfare.

Because the day is observed with such exuberance in the United States, many Americans, including some of Mexican descent, believe that Cinco de Mayo celebrates Mexico's war of independence or the Mexican Revolution.

LEFT, George Bush greeting Cinco de Mayo dancers in this photo from the White House website. The holiday has become commercially popularized in the US and many confuse it with Independence Day.

The recent tradition of Cinco de Mayo celebrations across the U.S. is certainly a great example of clever marketing and commercial success, but the true story behind Mexican independence day is much more fascinating.



Many believe that Cinco de Mayo became popular with the Mexican-American community as a result of the very limited attention given to Mexican and Latin American history in U.S. schools. In addition, most Mexicans that immigrated to the U.S. had little or no education, and as a result a very limited knowledge of their own history.

Others say that one of the reasons Cinco de Mayo rather than Mexican Independence Day became popular in the United States is that it was easier for Chicano students during the sixties to celebrate in the spring than in the fall.

One Latino magazine says that the reasons for the confusion vary. According to the publication, both Cinco de Mayo and Mexican Independence Day were once observed by people of Mexican descent in the United States. But because of the 1848 defeat and loss of territory to the Americans, Mexican Independence Day activities also included anti-American demonstrations, including flag burning. The Battle of Puebla, however, memorialized on May 5th did not involve the United States.

At the end of the 19th century U.S. politicians decided to put the focus on Cinco de Mayo rather than the War of Independence.

The article goes on to say that by diverting attention to a conflict between Mexico and France, anti-American expressions in Mexican-American communities could be suppressed, he said.

No matter how you slice it, Cinco de Mayo equals big business from a marketing perspective, especially for U.S. beer companies. It’s no coincidence that marketers went with the easy-to-pronounce Cinco de Mayo instead of a tongue twister like Diez y Seis de Septiembre.

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