I remember a few years ago I got a telephone call from my daughter who lives in New York City saying “Happy Cinco de Mayo, Dad.” 

I was living in Reynosa and she had assumed that it was a national holiday in Mexico that we celebrated the same way they do in the USA.  

I likewise used to get the same kind of messages from family members who live in central Texas. When I asked all of them if they knew the significance of Cinco de Mayo they all responded that it was the independence day for Mexico. 

Not! Cinco de Mayo is not Mexican Independence Day. It does, however, have historical significance in the country because on May 5 of 1862 General Ignacio Zaragoza lead a ragtag guerrilla army of 2,000 mostly farmers and defeated an elite battle-trained and equipped French army of 6,000 at Puebla. 

That’s it. In the USA it is a day to celebrate Hispanic pride and a good excuse for having a party with delicious Mexican food in to celebrate Mexican culture, music, costume, and dance.

“In the U.S., Cinco de Mayo celebrations were first held in California in the 1860s, marked among the hundreds of Mexican miners who had crossed the border to work in the west. The celebration spread as Hispanic culture grew in the U.S., getting a commercial boost in the 1980s when restaurants and bars began cashing in on the event,” says a post from AL.com. 

So what do people in Mexico think about Cinco de Mayo? Is it a date that is only significant to Hispanic populations living in other parts of the world? Does it have some national significance?

 Puebla native, and former Reynosa resident, Olga Gallardo has this to say:

“In Puebla, it is a great party for the battle of Puebla. It is a great historical festival. Here in Guadalajara it is not relevant. Many of the elderly are full of history and it is what they teach us; in addition to the great party in the state of Puebla to remember that event. Here they tell stories of Don Benito Juarez among other revolutionaries.” Gallardo now resides in Guadalajara.

Dora Rangèl, industrial engineer and opera singer in Nuevo Laredo added this: “A day like any other, it is commemorative but it does not have much relevance in Mexico, since it is not a holiday. I think Children’s Day is more popular than May 5 in Mexico,” she responded with a laugh. 

Veronica Calderon, a McAllen resident originally from Nuevo León and an acclaimed photographer, said: “I was raised in Mexico and it wasn’t a thing we celebrated. We didn’t even celebrate Día de Reyes or Día de Muertos the way it’s celebrated in mostly southern states. In every town in Mexico there are many, many celebrations but that’s more like in the south, not so much in Nuevo León.”

In Goliad, Texas, the State Government of Puebla donated a statue and monument to General Ignacio Zaragoza, arguably one of the historic town’s most famous residents. The bronze statue proudly stands with Zaragoza’s boyhood home still standing below his figure. A plaque in English and Spanish commemorates its distinguished son:

“His victory over the invading French army, at the battle of Puebla May 5, 1862, inspired the Mexican people in their long struggle to overthrow the foreign rule of emperor Maximilian.”

Ultimately the Hapsburg reign was terminated by among others, Benito Juarez. Enjoy your Cinco de Mayo! It doesn’t matter what we’re celebrating as long as we’re celebrating. Cheers!

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