How Cinco de Mayo became an American holiday

Written by | Almost Like History

cinco de mayo

Image:Steve Cukrov/shutterstock

Cinco De Mayo is approaching, which means Americans everywhere will use this date set aside to commemorate the victory of Mexican soldiers over the invading French to get drunk and eat burritos. There will even be parades celebrating the Mexican heritage of many cities.  Meanwhile, in Mexico, the day will largely pass unnoticed, except for the kids who will get out of going to school.

So why is it that a holiday celebrating a Mexican military victory is so much more popular in the US than in its country of origin?

Well to understand that you have to understand some of the history behind the battle. In 1862, Mexico was basically broke and owed a lot of money to various European countries. Unfortunately, Mexico sort of had a hard time paying that money back since they had just been invaded by the US and gone through a civil war and thus the economy wasn’t in great shape.

The Mexican President thus declared that there would be a two-year delay on all repayment of debts. This didn’t sit well with the French, who basically said, ok well we will just go ahead and take the port of Veracruz then in the meantime. They sent an army to seize the city and overthrow the Mexican government. The Mexican army met them a few miles outside the capital and despite being outnumbered two to one managed to beat the French.

Understandably, the Mexicans were pretty excited about this development and promptly declared the day a national holiday. The news was greeted with even greater enthusiasm by Mexican emigrants living in California who began celebrating the holiday with parties.

While the holiday sort of stopped being popular in Mexico over the next few decades, in the US the Mexican community started celebrating it as more of a celebration of their heritage than as an actual commemoration of a military victory.

The celebration of the holiday reached a peak in the late 20th century by which time it had evolved into a holiday completely dedicated to celebrating Mexican heritage. Sensing opportunity, the people at Corona made sure that the day was celebrated with Mexican Beer. They began marketing aggressively on Cinco De Mayo to convince the people celebrating to honor their heritage by drinking beer produced in Mexico.

This made the day a drinking holiday, which instantly caught the attention of the rest of America, which never misses out on a chance to get wasted under the guise of celebrating a holiday. Thus, the day dedicated to celebrating a Mexican victory over the French became one of America’s most treasured excuses to get loaded on Margaritas.

Happy Cinco De Mayo everyone!

Last modified: May 2, 2016