By Molly “M.E.O.W.” Naaktgeboren, Staff Writer

Everyone knows this holiday, and the date is even in the title. Cinco de Mayo fell on a Tuesday this year, but do you really know where this holiday/festival comes from? Most people think it is Mexican Independence Day, but it actually commemorates the Mexican army’s 1862 victory over France at the Battle of Puebla during the Franco-Mexican War (1861-1867). This was a moral, symbolic victory for the people, not a decisive strategic win for the war.

But if one war was not enough, the American Civil War was going on at the same time and the confederacy was looking for the French’s help to defeat the Union. If the French had won the Battle of Puebla and established a base in Mexico, the war could have turned out differently. So then, at the end of the civil war, people on May 5 would don civil war clothing and make speeches about how this small victory played a potentially major role in the outcome of two nations. Later on in history, there was a major migration of people from Mexico to the United States of America and they began to reclaim May 5 for themselves. So although Cinco de Mayo is a minor celebration in Mexico, in America it has turned into what we all know it as today: a celebration of heritage.

So nowadays, in the town where the battle took place, Puebla, there are often re-enactments, large parades and traditional Mexican foods and patriotic clothing. What’s a little bit different is that in the United States and some parts of Canada, people will get together with friends and family and have parties. There are often the Mexican flag colors as the decor (red, white, and green) and Mariachi bands or music playing with traditional Mexican dancing. Of course, it would not be complete (no party is) without the food: a feast of dishes such as tacos, enchiladas, salsa and other traditional Mexican foods.

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