Mexico’s Independence Day…Cinco de Mayo or September 16?

There’s a good chance you’ve heard of the holiday known as Cinco de Mayo or the fifth of May. As we dig more into diversity in our Siouxland area, let’s learn a little bit more about the fascinating event so you can enjoy the fiesta with a little more knowledge under your belt. 

When is Mexico’s Independence day, and why is Cinco de Mayo celebrated? Many will be surprised when I share that September 16th is actually Mexico’s Independence day. Although Mexico did achieve a significant victory against the French at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862, by the time the Battle of Puebla came to pass, Mexico had already enjoyed more than 50 years of independence from Spain which was freedom won after an 11-year war that ended on September 16, 1810. As for Cinco de Mayo, that celebration honors a single battle in which the underdog achieved an unlikely victory against French troops, who saw Mexico’s unpaid debt as an opportunity to invade and expand Napoleon’s colonial empire. But how did a single battle earn such lasting symbolic significance? The Mexican army was seriously outnumbered with poor supplies, yet still emerged victoriously. 

Although Cinco de Mayo is celebrated in the city of Puebla (where the epic victory occurred) with military parades and festivities in the streets, Cinco de Mayo is a much bigger deal in the United States, particularly in places with large Mexican communities. In Mexico, the holiday is not recognized at the federal level. In other words, it’s business as usual since banks, stores, and just about everything else remains open. Chicano activists raised awareness of the holiday in the 1960s here in the US, in part because they identified with the victory of Indigenous Mexicans (such as Juárez) over European invaders during the Battle of Puebla and it wasn’t until 2005 that congress declared Cinco de Mayo an official US holiday. 

Cinco de Mayo is all about celebrating Mexican culture. The most decadent Cinco de Mayo celebrations will always feature traditional mariachi music, which dates back to the 19th century and is deeply rooted in the country’s revolutionary past, colorful folkloric dances, and, yes, the delicious food.  Some of the largest festivals in the US are held in Los AngelesChicago, and Houston. It’s easy to locate a taco vendor, score a margarita or indulge in a burrito on Cinco de Mayo here in our Siouxland community…and don’t we love that! But you might be surprised to know the official dish of Cinco de Mayo is mole poblano, a rich, dark brown sauce made of Mexican Chocolate and many spices served over chicken. Mole Poblano comes from the Mexican city of Puebla, where the historic battle victory occurred. We look forward to celebrating Cinco De Mayo with our community this year and for many more years to come.  

By Ivonet Torres De Anda, a bilingual real estate agent with Century 21 ProLink. Ivonet is also a Siouxland Chamber of Commerce Green Coat Ambassador, sitting on the Executive Committee and this year’s Key Leadership Welcome Dinner chair. She is also co-founder of El Proyecto Dramático del Teatro New Stage Players, a cultural gem in Siouxland, serving as the first-ever bilingual theater program in our metro area. Their mission is to celebrate the vibrancy and diversity in Siouxland cultures, offering new experiences and opportunities for individuals, families, artists, and audiences throughout our community. 

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