Planning a vacation to Mexico to celebrate Cinco de Mayo may seem like a reasonable move. After all, where better to be for St. Patrick’s day than Ireland? If the cervazas flow as freely as they do in the U.S. on May 5th, it must be sheer madness south of the border. Right?
Taking a vacation to Mexico can be a good idea for plenty of reasons, but embarking on a quest to find a crazy Cinco de Mayo partying experience is not one of them. The best Cinco de Mayo parties can be found on American turf because, to the confusion of many, it is an American holiday.
Cinco de Mayo has its origins in the Civil War when a Mexican army succeeded in fighting off French invaders seeking to impose a monarchy in 1862. Latinos in the U.S. viewed that victory as a rallying cry that the Union could win the Civil War. Napoleon III’s invasion plan was to use the instilled monarchy to cooperate with the Confederates north of the border. Hispanics living in the U.S. at the time supported the Union and viewed Mexico’s triumph over the French invasion as a victory for the fight against slavery. And thus, Cinco de Mayo celebrations were born in the American west among the Latinos living in California, Oregon, Nevada, and Arizona.
The holiday has changed over time. By the end of the 18th century, veterans of the Union army and the Latinos living in the U.S. struggled to cement the significance of the day among the younger generation. By World War II, the holiday was viewed as a celebration of the unity between the U.S. and Mexico during that conflict.
Today, Cinco de Mayo is little more than an American holiday sustained by beer manufacturers who cash in annually on the demand for Mexican beer at celebrations. In Mexico, it is not a celebration of their independence day. That much more festive occasion takes place on September 16th. Cinco de Mayo is marked in Mexico by much more subdued celebrating than most Americans would probably expect. Puebla, the city where the battle against the French took place 150 years ago, celebrated the significant anniversary this year with a parade followed by a performance from Marc Anthony.
Mexicans view the attention Cinco de Mayo receives in the U.S. with mixed feelings. While many of them are aware of the misconception Americans have about the holiday, they still appreciate the appreciation and support shown for Mexico. They view it as an opportunity to share their pride for being Mexican.
So for the Americans looking to come to Mexico for a wild night of guzzling cervazas on Cinco de Mayo, a better strategy would be to visit the nearest pub in the U.S. There are better reasons to come to Mexico and take part in experiencing their culture.